Students, staff share their frustrations after Board of Trustees participate in town hall

Caleb Cissna, Staff Writer

Many students, staff, and faculty were in attendance of a town hall style meeting where several Board of Trustees members were speaking. It took place in Royal Brougham on May 26th, 2022. (Rio Giancarlo)

On May 26, Dr. April Middeljans and Provost Laura Hartley co-moderated a town hall style discussion in Royal Brougham Pavilion. Board of Trustees members President Pete Menjares, Dean Kato, Deborah Wilds, Bishop Matthew Whitehead and George Parker were present to respond to questions submitted beforehand by Seattle Pacific University staff, students and faculty.

Cedric Davis, chair of the Board of Trustees, sent regrets for not attending the event. No other trustees were present.

Many students and staff are frustrated by the responses given by the trustees, like fourth year music therapy major Eric Peterson, who shared his thoughts on the event.

“It’s bullshit. A lot of nothing was said,” Peterson said. “There wasn’t much of substance given by the board.”

First year sociology, physiology and honors liberal arts major Sarah Garvin feels that the responses have created more confusion.

“The town hall meeting was complete bullshit. As some of the faculty here were saying, they didn’t even deflect questions, they straight up lied and just didn’t answer anything. Like it was a complete non-answer. They obviously didn’t add anything to the conversation besides making it worse,” Garvin shared. “They immediately made it more confusing and a lot of the questions that we had proposed to them were really yes or no answers, and they didn’t say yes or no for anything, except for one question that did not ask for a yes or no answer, which just shows how much they aren’t listening in the first place.”

Carly Curlee, assistant director of Student Financial Services Counseling, is also disappointed with the responses received from the trustees.

“I felt like they did not answer the questions sufficiently, and I think that there needs to be a space for the community to just answer questions and be able to react and respond because I think what we’re lacking here is like the voice to be able to say, like, ‘no, that’s not right,’” Curlee said. “I don’t think the board really gave concrete examples and I think that’s what everyone is frustrated about.”

Many faculty and staff members feel that the board of trustees do not represent students and staff, and that the board should be held accountable for the effects of their decisions.

Emilly Huff, clinical faculty in the School of Education and director of Field Placements, shared her feelings about the effects of the town hall event.

“It definitely feels like they were divorced from many of the perspectives that were represented among faculty, staff, students and alumni,” Huff said. “It feels that they are not speaking for the community and that is what is the most painful thing for the community that then has to live with the fallout of these decisions.”

Garvin shared her frustrations with the lack of transparency she feels from the board, as well as the justifications the board has expressed.

“They could listen to what we’re saying instead of trying to defend themselves to start. They could actually say that, like say that. They can tell us how they voted,” Garvin said. “That way we know whose side they’re on and they can stop trying to justify it with what the Bible says or by bringing in someone here who literally betrayed the entire board and tried to use him as a way to justify what they said.”

Some staff expressed a wish for increased accountability and a change in the processes of selection for the Board of Trustees.

Elise Bradway, student employment manager, feels that the Board of Trustees is disconnected for the greater campus.

“I think they need to be more involved with the community as a whole. Yes, they come for meetings, and only recently occasionally events, and that’s just not acceptable if you have the responsibility of voicing the entire institution. So they need to be more involved in every aspect of the institution,” Bradway said.

Curlee shared her wishes for increased staff voices in the decision making process.

“They need a process in which they’re held accountable. We need a voice in this decision making. It can’t just be them as this like, overhead. I think we need a part in elections for board members,” Curlee said. “I don’t think this should be a self-sustaining thing where board members elect other board members, because as we’ve seen, there’s been some that have resigned and there’s a lack of diversity of perspective. I think we’re losing some of that.”