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Mooney speaks at group meeting

Liz Harter | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

College President Carol Ann Mooney visited the Saint Mary’s Board of Governance meeting Monday to discuss the College’s strengths and weaknesses.

Mooney asked BOG members a series of questions to gather information and help assess what the College’s priorities should be for the next five years.

In the past, Mooney held four question-and-answer sessions in Vander Vennet Theater for students, but not many people attended.

“Either my message wasn’t clear enough about the importance of this [information] or the timing [of the sessions] was bad,” Mooney said. “[BOG is], at the moment, the student perspective on this.”

Members praised the College for its development of leaders and the high number of extra-curricular activities offered to students. There were a few aspects of the College, however, that members described as needing improvement.

“I have a lot of issues with diversity on campus,” Student Diversity Board president Angelina Johnson said.

Johnson said she would like to see more diversity in the classroom. She would also like diversity training for faculty, staff, BOG members and the resident assistants in the dormitories.

The College needs to work towards having more students open to diversity, Johnson said. But she also said Saint Mary’s is on the right track to becoming more diverse.

Mooney asked Johnson what she believed was standing in the way of student support for diversity.

“I think that students who don’t already feel that diversity is important [may not feel that diversity events] would include them,” Johnson said, adding that it just might not be one of their main concerns.

Athletic commissioner Anne Cusak brought up the need for funding, staffing and recruiting for the athletic department. If these issues are addressed, she said, it would improve the College.

Cusak also said the College needs a swimming pool, since the Regina Hall pool closed earlier this fall.

“An Olympic sized swimming pool costs $1 million a year to run,” Mooney said. “We need one but it [costs a lot of money].”

The group also discussed the stereotype of Saint Mary’s women as unintelligent and second-class.

“I think the students who have the hardest time with [the stereotype] is the first-year students,” said student trustee Julie Malone. “Oftentimes [new students] are unaware that the stereotype exists, and it can turn inward and [students] can lose pride in being a Saint Mary’s woman.”

Student body president Susan McIlduff said she would like to see more information about what it really means to attend a women’s college.

“As a senior I still do not really know what it means to go to a women’s college,” she said.

Mooney said articulating that meaning is “one of the challenges” the College faces, since most of the information on the topic is from the 1990s.

Mooney said surveys that are sent out via e-mail to seniors and freshmen during the spring semester help reveal what is uniquely beneficial at a women’s college.

Mooney also addressed the question of retaining beauty and security at the College in light of the current construction of the Hilton Garden Inn on the outskirts of campus.

“I have talked extensively with the Sisters [of the Holy Cross] about this,” Mooney said. “[The hotel] is going to be beautifully landscaped and we’ll do what we can to keep the same look of the College.”

Mooney also addressed concern about safety for students living in Opus Apartments.

“The security issue works two ways,” she added. “Opus, at the moment, is isolated in one corner of the campus. Having more people around and moving around actually increases safety. Isolation doesn’t always create safety.”

Even though Madeleva Drive will be moved closer to Opus Apartments due to the construction of the Hilton, Mooney said, the space has been measured and if the College wanted to build more on-campus apartments, they would fit in the space comfortably.

BOG members brought up many more issues, such as having more 24-hour spaces for students to study. They also suggested reducing the number of first-year students in McCandless Hall, as well as promoting the College’s W program (a mandatory writing proficiency program) and the Senior Composition program.

Mooney discussed the identity initiative and addressed rumors about the College not being allowed to use the French Cross logo on items sold in the bookstore.

There has been discussion about changing the College logo, which includes the French Cross, Mooney said, but the use of the Cross will not be restricted completely.

The Cross is a religious symbol and therefore must be used appropriately, Mooney said.

Mooney stressed that Monday’s meeting was just for brainstorming and not a session where ideas needed to be completely fleshed out.

“If I hear the same thing [in my different information gathering sessions], then I know I need to start paying attention to it,” Mooney said.