Students: Chancellor Q&A left important questions unanswered


Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell is interviewed by Gabbea Williams, a non-declared graduate student, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in the Student Center Ballrooms during an event coordinated through SIU’s Student Programming Council. (Bill Lukitsch | @Lukitsbill)

By Tyra Wooten

Some students left Wednesday night’s chat with the chancellor frustrated about the discussion’s lack of seriousness.

The question and answer between interim Chancellor Brad Colwell and a small crowd of about 20 people left some participants wishing more important questions had been asked.

Johnathan Flowers, vice president of graduate school affairs, said the chat didn’t let students make their concerns known.


“When students ask questions, they expect to receive a response,” Flowers said. “What we got was this. Not good.”

Carly James, assistant director of student center programs, said the purpose of the event — hosted by the Student Programing Council — was for students to get to know the chancellor.

“I want students to have a good relationship with the chancellor,” said SPC talks director Ellen Lechman, who helped plan the event.

Questions for the chancellor were submitted using Twitter with the phrase #chatwithbrad, a chalkboard in the Student Center and written submissions at the chat. The questions were then drawn out of a bowl.

Colwell began by briefly highlighting key points made at his State of the University address from earlier in the day, including enrollment statistics, managing student programs and the effects of the state budget woes on the university.

More: SIUC chancellor outlines budget, enrollment concerns during State of the University address

Later, the discussion shifted to Colwell’s personal life, including his greatest accomplishments and his dream job — being a cowboy.


But at one point, students attempted to steer the discussion in a more serious direction.

“Are we going to get to the hard hitting questions?” asked Stephenie DeArcangelis, a doctoral candidate in communication studies from Crete.

DeArcangelis said she submitted questions about white supremacy, racism and hiring practices, sexual assault policies and student safety to the chancellor. But, she said, none of those questions were asked.

It wasn’t long before more frustration was voiced after a question was asked about Colwell’s preference for dogs or cats.

“I hope you’re a dog man, but can we get to the more important things?” asked Karen Kaufman, a market cashier in the Student Center.

Kaufman said she wanted the discussions to be more knowledgeable and more about the university’s financial plans in light of the state budget crisis.

Colwell said his expectations were for students to get to know him better and to begin discussions about difficult topics.

“I sense that most of the students who came probably weren’t terribly interested in the fun chit chat,” Colwell said.

Colwell said a majority of students stayed around after the event to share their issues and concerns with him one-on-one.

“I can’t always promise they’re going to get the answer they’re looking for, but I will promise them answers,” Colwell said.

Lori Stettler, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said the point of the event wasn’t an open discussion.

“The purpose of tonight was to get to know the man behind the position,” Stettler said. “He meets with students regularly and makes himself available.”

The final inquiry of the night was about what sandwich best describes Colwell.

Most students didn’t seem satisfied with the closing question or the overall discussion.

The chancellor said he thinks students don’t want to talk, but instead want action.

“A more serious conversation needs to be held between the chancellor and students,” Flowers said. “And this wasn’t a good start.”

Staff writer Tyra Wooten can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @twootenDE.

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