Board of Trustees visits campus with some curriculum of their own

Caption: President Crawford and Board members break ground on the Welcome Center — Photo credit to Sy Bean.

There is a lot of discussion these days around how much college campuses truly prepare students for the real world. In the current political climate, this issue can often become a controversial one. The Board of Trustees visits campus several times per year, and this most recent visit included a strong emphasis on how the University prepares students to be engaged citizens and leaders in the world.

On Monday, Feb. 25, an email was sent out to the campus community that contained the report from recent Board of Trustees visit. The visit took place over the course of two days, during which the Board of Trustees met with members of the faculty, staff and student body.

“It is always a pleasure to have our very generous and hardworking trustees here on campus, and they enjoyed a very productive series of meetings as Bob Pohlad summarized in his message to campus,” Vice President of Communications Gayle McIntosh said.

This particular Board visit was focused around the University’s strategic plan, Leadership For A Changing World.

“[Leadership For a Changing World is] a student-centered strategic plan guided by our vision and values, built on our mission and educational goals, and supported by a commitment to do all that we can to make a Puget Sound education ever more meaningful, relevant, accessible, and distinctive. Over the coming decade we will be bold and forward-looking in the delivery of our residential liberal arts education to meet the needs of this and future generations of students,” the University website reads.

As a result of this, many of the events that the Board attended were focused on the development of this new strategic plan. This included conferences and summits with student presenters and panels with members of the faculty.

A standout part of the visit report was the fact that this year’s meeting was centered around discussion of a particular book. “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt was assigned to the board by the chair of the board as reading to be done before their visit to campus.

The book argues that American childhood and education has not served the younger generations well. The authors have a framework of three “Great Untruths” that sum up what they think is wrong with college campuses, young people and how they affect liberal democracies.

“The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people,” the book description reads.

The board of trustees framed their visit to campus around discussion questions based off of their reading of this book.

“Trustees deeply value the opportunity to work directly with and hear from students, faculty, and staff about campus life. The workshop, based on five questions for colleges and universities raised in ‘The Coddling of the American Mind,’ is another highlight of the February meetings as we had a terrific group of panelists from the faculty and Student Affairs and a high level of engagement from trustees,” McIntosh said.

“Trustees do a substantial amount of advance reading in preparation for each series of meetings, but this is the first time in recent memory that they’ve read an entire book at the invitation of the board chair. The book was provided to trustees at their fall meeting on the recommendation of the board chair, who thought it raised important issues for the Board to consider. Many trustees cited the workshop as a highlight of the February meetings,” McIntosh continued.

The workshop where the book was discussed was framed by several questions. Robert C. Pohlad, Chair of the Puget Sound Board of Trustees, shared these questions in his report to campus.

“I found this book to be very powerful in raising issues to consider as we work to create the best possible outcomes for our students. How do we protect academic freedom and embrace free speech on campus? How do we foster a sense of shared identity on campus? How are we helping students to become resilient in the face of obstacles and challenges, and how are we responding to student wellness needs?” Pohlad wrote.

The Board of Trustees also looked over the site of the new Welcome Center, which broke ground several weeks ago.

“Each meeting of the trustees advances movement on any number of areas of great importance to the college. This particular meeting included approval of the budget for the 2019-20 academic year, which comes to the Board on the recommendation of the president following the work of the Budget Task Force and broad input from the campus community,” McIntosh said.

This particular Board visit stands out as the Board was looking at the campus through the lens of a particular book, and guiding their visit based on a theoretical discussion. It will be interesting for students going forward to see if campus life will be impacted by this book. Students who are interested in learning more can read the full report on the University website and contact the Office of the President for further details.