Last Monday I met with Steve Swan, the new Vice-President for University Relations at
Mr. Swan immediately contacted me to say that he had had a previous commitment and was not able to attend. He also suggested that we get together soon, a refreshing change from the initial reactions I received following my letter to WWU President Shepard last fall (click here to read that letter). I was mildly optimistic that a conversation with Mr. Swan would be useful and I was not disappointed. I found someone willing to listen.
Our discussion was based mainly on the recommendations I had made to WWU President Shepard in my September letter and on the meeting that I subsequently had with Dr. Eileen Coughlin, Vice-President for Student Affairs and Academic Support Services, and Mr. Ted Pratt, Dean of Students (click here to read a summary of our meeting).
Initially, I reiterated my disappointment with the remarks that Dr. Shepard had made to the Bellingham Herald in an interview last September (click here to read the transcript) and that served as a basis for my letter. With Mr. Swan, I sensed openings in several areas. First, a conversation has begun with respect to the appropriateness of the Campus Community Coalition being subordinated (narrowly so) to the Office of Prevention and Wellness Services. The scope of interest of the Coalition has evolved beyond issues of alcohol consumption. Although that subject should remain one of interest to the Coalition, the greater
Second is the waterfront, a subject that has been a prime concern of the university for many months now. At the same time, I told Mr. Swan that there was no concomitant talk of looking to public-private partnerships to ease a rental situation which forces students into creating illegal rooming houses as a substitute for affordable housing. Further talk of
Third, there have been suggestions by some, including me, that the student code be amended to include sanctions for off-campus transgressions such as is the case at
We also spoke briefly about the advertizing of rentals at the Viking Student Union and in the Western Front which violate the Bellingham Municipal Code. I told Mr. Swan that the VU had already taken some actions on limiting this sort of advertizing (Click here and here to read my blog entries) but that I had heard nothing from the Western Front. We agreed that the university ought not be in a position of allowing such advertisements. This sends the wrong message from an institution which should be promoting honesty and integrity. I told Mr. Swan that, since I was already working with Mr. Ted Pratt, Dean of Students, and Mr. Jim Schuster, Director of the Viking Union, on the subject, I would keep him informed.
I also recommended to Mr. Swan that his office reach out to the Bellingham City Council which had expressed last August in a motion by Council Member Jack Weiss its desire to begin a dialogue with the new WWU administration. (Click here to read my blog on that topic) To date, the council has not indicated that a new outreach had been initiated from its offices.
My thanks again to Mr. Swan for his time. I am looking forward to further exchanges with him on the topics above.