The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


President Barazzone holds meeting about the future of Chatham


On Tuesday, April 8, President Esther Barazzone, students, and staff met in the Mellon Board Room for an informal conversation about the potential changes that face the undergraduate program and the university as a whole.

In her welcome, President Barazzone emphasized her commitment to undergraduate education and to women, as well as to the graduate program, which has financially supported itself and the undergraduate program since not long after its founding.  According to Barazzone, this system is no longer possible in the current economy.

“We can’t damage one member of our family to protect another member of our family, and we’re getting dangerously close to that,” Barazzone said.

Barazzone welcomed questions, comments, and suggestions from students.

“I want to be responsive to you,” Barazzone said.  “I’m rather more interested in hearing what you’re thinking.”

One major concern, voiced by first-year Maryann Fix, was about the future of Chatham’s diversity if the College for Women ceases to exist.  Fix was “worried that the feelings of respect, being comfortable, and feeling that your identity is being accepted and loved” might be compromised if men were to be admitted into the undergraduate program.

In response, Barazzone explained that it is Chatham’s existence as a small liberal arts college (not its being a women’s college) that impacts its acceptance of all races, sexualities, and gender identities.

“Small institutions are dedicated to the development of every individual who comes,” she said.

Dean of Students Zauyah Waite agreed, adding that the value of diversity will not go away because “it’s what drives us.”

In order to preserve Chatham’s dedication to women, Barazzone has proposed a women’s institute that would conduct training and orientation for incoming faculty to ensure nondiscriminatory, gender-balanced classrooms if the college becomes coeducational.

Dean Waite also reminded students that the changes upon becoming coeducational would likely be gradual.  According to Waite, undergraduate men would be a minority at first, and the “World Ready Women” of Chatham would be responsible for welcoming them.

President Barazzone brought up the potential for “a more subtle conflict between the women who come because it’s no longer a women’s college and the women who came because it’s a women’s college.”

Senior Liz Sawyer reminded the president that a divide already exists between students who do not want Chatham to become coeducational and those who would not mind the switch.

Barazzone understands this divide, but she encourages a “respect for differences of opinion,” and a “desire to create a productive environment,” among all students.

Regardless of whether or not the undergraduate program becomes coeducational, students and staff agree that more intensive marketing programs are necessary.

“We’re a great school with great Student Affairs activities, but there are so many academic programs that people don’t know about,” first-year Tahmina Tursonzadah said.

Vice President of Marketing and Communications Bill Campbell is also concerned about Chatham’s lack of academic marketing. According to Campbell, undergraduate education is evolving to mimic graduate education’s focus on academics and career preparation, and quantitative and qualitative market research shows that the college must put forth more academic marketing to attract prospective students.

In addition, President Barazzone would like to see undergraduate academic programming undergo a restructuring no matter what the board’s final decision on coeducation will be.

She believes that academic programming in its current state is not flexible enough and that self-designed study should be encouraged.

Barazzone also has problems with the current structure of tutorial.  She believes that it should span across all four years of one’s study so that students can benefit from the process earlier in their education.

Both President Barazzone and students suggested and discussed many possibilities for academic changes and future programming, but none have been officially adopted yet.

President Barazzone proposed having a summit to discuss changes and suggestions for Chatham’s future regardless of whether or not the institution becomes coeducational because she and the Board of Trustees value student feedback.

“We’ll have another get together.  I always learn a lot, and I thank you for it,” Barazzone said.

A summit could occur in May or early next semester, but official plans have yet to be made.

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