Students make their voices heard during State of the University address

President Barbara R. SnyderCase Western Reserve students made one point clear at during Tuesday night’s State of the University address: They aren’t the least bit shy about posing questions to the president.

Not only did more than 480 of them vote earlier on topics that they wanted Barbara R. Snyder to touch upon during her speech, but they also pressed for answers on more than a dozen other issues after the formal remarks. In-person inquiries covered the future of the chemistry building better known as Morley; the future of the Thwing Student Center after the Tinkham Veale University Center opens; and the process the president uses to decide whether to cancel classes in the case of inclement weather.

With regard to the chemistry building, the president emphasized her desire to have the structure see new life, but noted the need for an interested donor to kick start any renovation process.

“If you know anyone who would like to help us rehab this building,” she said, “we would be pleased to speak with them.”

Meanwhile, she said, Thwing Center will remain open after the university center opens in 2014. Some areas, such as the ballroom, are likely to see less activity, but projections indicate that demand for student spaces will ensure much of the center remains in use.

Finally, when it comes to closing the campus, President Snyder stressed that the decision is collaborative among staff from facilities and security, as well as Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack. Criteria considered include the condition of campus walkways, the likely availability of light and heat, and the risks posed by the temperature and other environmental factors. Safety is and always will be the group’s primary concern, but officials also are sensitive to the academic impact of canceling classes.

One student asked the president what the university was doing to increase the number of minority students and make these young people feel more welcome on campus. The president replied that diversity is a university priority for all members of the community and encouraged him to visit the webpage of the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, where he also would see the Diversity Strategic Action Plan approved last spring.

“[Diversity] is not just for students,” President Snyder said. “It’s not just for faculty and staff. It is for everyone.”

Top concerns submitted in advance included access to courses and housing in light of larger class sizes (the first-year group totals 1,372 students), as well as slow wireless Internet service.

President Snyder emphasized the university’s commitment to provide high-quality learning and living experiences for students at all times. The university has added sections of classes likely to have substantial enrollments, and will continue to make such adjustments in coming years. In addition, staff renovated 10 residence halls this summer, and this fall a committee is examining ways to enhance off-campus student residence options.

At one point in her prepared remarks President Snyder highlighted Vice President for Student Affairs Glenn Nicholls, seated near the rear of the room. As the nearly 50 students turned to look at him,  she reminded the group that Nicholls would retire this spring after more than two decades on campus.

“I want to take this opportunity,” she said, “in front of all of you, to thank him.”

The room erupted in hearty—and heartfelt—applause.