An Open Letter to Fairfield University Students regarding the OCB Lottery and Student Concerns
Over the past few days, we have all seen the back and forth articles, quotes, and discussions considering the prospect of a student protest regarding the off campus boarder lottery. Students have expressed frustration, confusion, and discontent, and this appears to have prompted a desire to demonstrate. I am concerned about the level of anxiety and perhaps worst of all, a lack of trust. If students are willing to work with me and others, I would like to propose a way to repair this breach in lieu of a demonstration. Let me begin with a personal note of regret: In the past week, students have come forward not just with concerns about the lottery process, but basic questions underlying our policies, many of which I have endeavored to address in communications to the student community. The current lottery system has its flaws, something that has been noted before, but somewhere, we seem to have missed an opportunity to join issue on that and ask where we can go from here.
Now is not the time to make an accounting of who did or did not do what, but rather, where do we go from here? There are many issues of concern and admittedly, not all are clear to me. I readily acknowledge the frustration that many students are feeling, but do not believe a demonstration is the best use of anyone’s energies at this point, particularly when we can take an opportunity now to engage in an informed dialogue on the issues, and hopefully, come to a resolution and allow students to be “students” again. I have spoken with individual student leaders as well as colleagues and there is agreement on this.
In lieu of a demonstration, I would offer to the student leaders engaged in this discourse the opportunity to make a presentation during the week of April 14, 2008 where issues of concern can be addressed openly and frankly to members of the administration charged with overseeing the lottery and issues related to off campus living, followed by ideas and proposals from those student leaders as to what they believe to be next steps. Let me be clear that this is no “bait and switch” tactic. My desire is to begin a dialogue on the substance of the issues quickly and in the most open and notable manner possible, involving all relevant stakeholders. Candor and openness will be key to this and I fully anticipate that parts of this discussion will be challenging. But that is how our mission statement defines us. Further, based on my discussions to date with student leaders, I am confident that a constructive forum can be produced with tangible action items produced.
I propose this and would ask the student leaders involved to consider the request in the upcoming days through normal and appropriate governance channels. I am requesting a presentation on the issues of concern, an articulation of those questions students feel they have not had answered, and most importantly, student ideas for improvement.
I want to close this open letter by thanking the many student leaders I have spoken to for working with me on the concept of this resolution, along with my colleagues in student affairs who are equally desirous to address this issue. I hope it will bear fruit, and know that we will have already taken an important step forward, even if our views differ during our spirited debate.
I look forward to hearing from students.
Thomas C. Pellegrino Associate Vice President and Dean of Student