If you could take one hour out of your day to find an explanation for all of the questions you have regarding what is happening to Sierra Nevada College, would you? When the Student Government Association held its last student forum on Nov. 7, 2012, only five students showed up. At the next forum, on Oct. 15, 2014, more than 60 people attended and displayed their involvement and concern with college proceedings.
“SGA’s vision is to create a strong and trustful relationship between the students, administration and community by increasing student engagement and bringing them to action,” SGA president Aaron Wiener said.
Wiener oversaw the forum and questions were answered by Provost Shannon Beets; Elizabeth Thibodeau, director of Student Affairs and Housing; Dianne Severance, director of Grants and Sponsored Programs; Dean of Students Will Hoida; Director of Facilities Brian Schultes and former SNC President Ben Solomon.
The first 10 minutes of the forum were open to any comment. Students questioned the panel about increased space for the music department, athletic diversity, earlier dining hours and the role of sustainability in SNC’s future. These topics were addressed quickly before moving on to the primary topics of parking, High Altitude Fitness passes and the president’s house.
“Why are there more passes given out than parking spaces?” Senior Emily Provencher asked, commencing discussion on the topic of parking trouble on campus.
“One of the issues about parking passes issued versus parking spots available is what are the use patterns on campus and how many folks do we have on campus at any one time,” Schultes said. “Everybody loves to go to class between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.”
Provencher then suggested that parking passes should only be issued to sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Beets admitted that although “upperclassmen only parking” is not unusual at other schools, SNC ran a trial on the policy and it did not go well.
“It was incredibly negatively received by potential recruits,” Beets said. “We might have to get there; we might get to the point where as we grow that becomes our only option, but it does have the potential to impact our ability to recruit.”
According to Thibodeau, the college does have an agreement with Cornerstone Community Church, on 300 Country Club Drive, which provides overflow parking for the college.
Dear, Sierra Nevada College
I find it important to state my opinion on the current proposed presidential house. It has been awhile since the students and staff started talking about this important issue, and the focus has seemed to shift. At first the real question was why can’t this money go elsewhere? While that remains unanswered, we now know the donor wants the house or they will not donate.
For me that creates more questions. First, why does SNC have to be a slave to its donors? Why can’t we exist as our own entity, and behave like a school, not a corporation?
Just because something is a gift does not mean you need to accept it. Especially when that gift goes against one of our school’s core themes, and our mission statement itself. Sustainability doesn’t live in 3000 square foot houses. Heck, Yvon Chounaird, the billionaire and founder of Patagonia, lives in a 1200 square foot house!
The environmental impact and ecological footprint that building will have offsets any sustainability project that SNC has done in recent years and will do for years to come. Even if the donor gives $100,000 for a new garden, there is no way it will amend for the environmental atrocity of building and maintaining (electricity, sewer, water, cleaning, run-off, upkeep) a presidential house for the rest of SNC’s future.
Build the building, but please change our school’s mission statement, and core theme of Sustainability, to Corporate Ogre-ness.
Plants have been uprooted and boulders moved from sections of the demonstration garden in preparation for construction to begin on the on-campus president’s house next May. The process began on Oct. 6, when a private landscaper who declined to identify himself began clearing out the northern part of the garden with a large backhoe.
According to Dianne Severance, director of grants and sponsor programs, the administration has been working with the original founders of the garden to extend and improve the demonstration garden. Severance says they plan to get all of the new plants in the ground before winter hits so that they can go into a state of hibernation and have a better chance of remaining healthy in the spring.
Severance also states that the section being cleared is the intended site for the president’s house and they intend to begin construction in May.
In a Sept. 11, 2014, issue of The Eagle’s Eye, President Lynn Gillette stated that “everything that is planned for in the master plan is tentative, including a house for the president”.
According to Gillette the president’s house will be used to entertain visitors to the college, hold fundraising functions and market to prospective students looking for a school with a president who involved on campus.
Although it’s convenient to limit our focus to issues in our own lives rather than the lives of other people, as students we have the responsibility to voice our opinions.
To speak up once in a while.
The Eagle’s Eye Club hosted its first meeting Sept. 29. and over 10 people attended, including club members, journalism students and others who came at the invitation of the Eagle’s Eye Club to voice their opinions.
Although the meeting began quietly, it didn’t take long before everyone had something to share about different issues on campus. We addressed class cuts, parking, the president’s house and more.
The meeting was one of two that will take place this semester. The goal of the club is to encourage more students to become involved with school media. As a student-run paper, it is important for all of us to voice our opinions. Currently, the paper is being run by four reporters and five editors who make up the Eagle’s Eye staff. Why leave the student media up to the journalism students though?
Is Marina McCoy really the only Sustainability major who has an opinion about the president’s house? Is Miranda Marie the only student upset about class cuts? Is Chris Muravez the only person concerned about the state of SNC he’s leaving behind after graduation?
I’d like to address my concerns regarding the building of a presidential residence on campus. I, along with many other students whom I’ve spoken to on this subject, have grave concerns regarding the impact of this project. These include the environmental impact on the proposed building site, the image of our college that such an endeavor will alter, the economic concerns regarding the use of donor funds, and the hypocritical nature of such a project as it goes against the core values of this school.
The project’s “focus on marketing and branding” [sic] has the potential to be a detriment to the students. This focus detracts from providing a better environment for the students, faculty, and staff to live, work, learn, and play. Rather than presenting an image of affluence and prestige, the energies spent on “marketing and branding” should involve creating actual affluence and prestige. There are several ways in which this generous donation can be used that do not involve a fancier place for faculty and Lakeshore Blvd. residents to party – “a president’s house on campus would be a place to easily host potential and current students, faculty, donors and visitors.”
A couple examples for better use of donor funds may include:
– Increasing budgets across all departments would help to provide for a better education for the students that are already here. This could take the form of better equipment and infrastructure, and/or more campus events (i.e. film festivals, Writers in the Woods candidates, etc).
– Increasing faculty salaries and creating more full time/tenured faculty positions. This would increase the level of educational expertise this school can provide, which in turn would improve this school’s image in the academic community.
As the school year begins, students scramble around campus getting back into their groove, smiles and small talk occur. High on the list of topics is the noticeable growth of Sierra Nevada College.
Since 2006, the SNC student population has doubled, and now has an enrollment of 549 undergraduate students. With many graduate students in the Masters of Teaching program and the Masters in Creative Writing, total SNC enrollment is now at 1,030 total students.
President Lynn Gillette is more than impressed with these growing numbers.
“I will say that no doubt, we are in a growth mode. We could see the student body going up by several hundred in the next couple of years; in fact, that’s a goal,” Gillette said.
Gillette is very happy with the increase in numbers, along with the academic quality of the university.
“The academic quality is overwhelmingly higher than it’s ever been. We got a hell of a product right now,” Gillette said.
With this product and the potential to grow, Sierra Nevada College must tackle a new problem – how to handle the numbers.
“With the growth that we are experiencing, we’re having a nice problem, needing to add facilities,” Gillette said.
According to Gillette, As far as academic space for classes and faculty offices, the school could accept several hundred more students without having to add these facilities.
Recently SNC opened the Holman Arts and Media Center on Tahoe Boulevard. This new building has allowed the art department to really expand and has become a much more comfortable facility for the students and faculty.
Gillette said new structures need to be built over the next two years including dorms, food service space, parking and a president’s home.
“Right now, we have thirty five percent of the undergraduate students living in the dorms. So as we grow, we’re going to have to address the issue of more dorm space. As housing is becoming more expensive in the area, and it is, that’s an issue that we have to address,” Gillette said.
SNC also has to address more cafeteria and parking space in order to support the growing enrollment of the school. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has actually put a cap on how large the school enrollment can grow without adding additional land to the campus. According to the admission’s department, SNC’s maximum capacity is currently set at 1,000 enrolled undergraduate students.
The master plan encompasses goals for the future physical layout of the SNC campus.
“Everything that is planned for in the master plan is tentative, including a house for the president,” Gillette said.
The master plan has been designed to accommodate up to 1,000 students along with the president of the school, if and when it is completed.
“A master plan is kind of dynamic; it’s always changing. As we build out the campus master plan, the idea that the president’s home on campus adds to the campus experience. That’s the vision,” Gillette said.
Planning and fundraising could take anywhere from 6 to 18 months and actual construction of any new facilities will take 12 to 15 months.
There are no hard dates set for the school’s necessary facility completions but as school enrollment keeps growing, the pressure to get these facilities built will continue to grow with it.
Currently, planning and permitting is in action to build a residence on campus for Sierra Nevada College presidents by 2016. Funded by donors, a president’s house on campus would be a place to easily host potential and current students, faculty, donors and visitors.
With the high academic quality and growth mode in motion, President Lynn Gillette explained that the president’s house fits in with the school’s future.
“We are starting a major focus on marketing and branding,” Gillette said. “This is about the campus; it is not about the current president,”
If the plan goes as scheduled, construction will begin May of 2015. The project will take roughly 12 to 13 months, meaning completion sometime during the summer of 2016. The 1.2 million dollar project will be completely funded by an anonymous donor, with other donors possibly contributing. The house has been estimated to be 3,000 square feet.
Many students and faculty have been wondering why a house for the president is even in the master plan for the school, and some raise concerns over the proposed location, and loosing the demonstration garden.
Senior Rachel Blum, who will be graduating in December does not agree with the decision to build the house.
“Why would we build an exclusive house for the president when we could build a community space for the students or an amphitheater that could be used for outdoor classes, readings, or performing arts. I think that would be cheaper and more beneficial for the students,” Blum said.
With the admissions department involved in both the school’s branding and marketing,
Dean of Admissions, Steve Berry, points out the benefits of building a president’s house.
“I think it’s great for admissions in the sense that one of our biggest selling points right now is that our executive team, meaning our president and provost, still teach classes on campus,” Berry said.“They’re actively engaged within the campus community, they’re visible on campus.”
“Having the president’s house on campus will add more credibility to what we’re preaching to the students when they know our president lives on campus,” said Berry. “He’s accessible, he’s visible and he’s very student centered which is something we’re proud of here at SNC” Berry said.
Chair of the Interdisciplinary Committee Katie Zanto explains that having an active president living on campus will be good for the school and its students.
“I think that having a president on campus who is involved in campus events and is very involved with knowing the students and their interests will definitely benefit the school,” Zanto said.
One thing that has not yet been decided is the location of the house. Gillette shared that the board is still figuring out where the house will be built; this will depend on parking and utilities.
“There have been about four sites under review. We’re looking at how different sighting impacts the master plan, utility delivery to that site, parking availability to the site,” Gillette said.
According to Gillette another geographic aspect the board has been considering during the decision making process is, “keeping the residential core whole and the academic core whole.”
As the fall semester continues, the permits for the project may or may not be granted. If they are granted, a location will be decided on and building will begin. The four locations that have been proposed are shown below on the campus’s map.
Sierra Nevada College began the 2013-2014 academic year with its first ever convocation. Keynote speaker, Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity.com and Kayak.com. Jones presented on the college’s inaugural theme, “innovation” at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19 in the concert tent on Patterson lawn.
The Business department is looking for innovative and creative ideas from the student body for this year’s Jâlé and Warren Trepp Business Plan Competition.
Patterson Lobby filled with new students, along with their parents, ready to check into their dorm rooms as Sierra Nevada College opened its doors for the Fall 2013 orientation at 9 a.m., Aug. 12.