On Wednesday evening, Elon University’s Student Government Association hosted a fireside chat featuring President Connie Book with questions moderated by Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley.
Throughout the chat, Book answered pre-submitted questions as well as live questions from student government representatives and other Elon community members. The questions ranged from Elon’s coronavirus response to questions about the caravan of cars in support of President Donald Trump that drove through campus on Sept. 19.
One student concern brought up was the lack of communication informing students of the Trump convoy. Book said she has called for a round table, a group of people who have been invited to sit as equals, to work on finding a better way to communicate and handle situations like that.
“It made me physically sick for our students here and our faculty and staff members out there,” Book said about the cars that yelled profanities and slurs at members of the community. “No one in our community deserves to not feel safe.”
Book said she is working with Director of Campus Safety and Police Doug Dotson to put in place a new protocol to send an e-alert if anything similar happens again.
One question brought up was about the progress of the 2030 Strategic Plan, Boldly Elon. Dooley said the “thrive” aspect of the plan, which focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion as well as wellness and well-being,have already begun.
Some aspects of “thrive” have already started such as an increased number of counselors and programming with counseling services. Book also said that part of the plan is to “diversify our faculty,” even with the 5% budget cut due to COVID-19 expenses.
“We’re working very aggressively to make sure under that thrive that students see people like themselves,” Book said.
Some senators were concerned about what the dynamic on Elon’s campus would be after Election Day.
Book said a group — which was not named — is working on activities to help with processing and teaching about the outcome of the election. She thought it was especially important to be prepared after the “shock” that occured after the 2016 election, including having additional support across campus.
Dooley emphasized the importance of voting, urging students to be proactive before election day.
“I think it’s really important to acknowledge that you need to have a plan right now for how you’re going to vote this fall,” said Dooley.
A community member watching the fireside chat virtually brought up the new North Carolina SlowCOVIDNC app. Book said the app is just “another tool” that currently only has good reviews, not great ones. She did tell the audience to expect to hear more about the app from the Ready & Resilient team, but for now Elon will continue with the protocols in place already.
Book also discussed the hiring process for a new campus police chief after being asked about a response to students of color feeling unsafe with increased police presence. She said the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is at the center of the search stressing the importance of hiring someone who reflects Elon’s values.
When asked by a student about the communication from the administration to students, faculty and staff this semester, Book admitted that the Elon communication process does not work well in the COVID-19 environment, stressing the importance of town halls and Q&A events.
In regards to whether or not there will be a tuition increase in the coming year due to the need for more faculty members. Book reassured the audience that they are “committed to keeping Elon accessible.”
When asked about the possibility of the university giving a pass/fail option to students, Book said that she does not know if that is in consideration, but that it will be brought up.
Book ended by expressing her gratitude that the community can still all be on campus together, even if it is a smaller amount, praising the students on their responses to COVID-19, especially with the recent change to level 3 due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.
“I hope you’re all feeling a sense of accomplishment as you watch those numbers coming down,” Book said. “I have been feeling good.”