Curing ‘The Chancellor Said’ Syndrome

Caleb Nelson

Chancellor Motley felt lonely and out of touch with students in his quiet office in the Quinn. That’s how he explained the lunch meeting to the fifteen student veterans reclining in lazy-back pleather chairs in a horseshoe shape around him as he sat apart on one empty side of a square table set for thirty.

“Sometimes I’ll see students in the hallway and ask how things are going, and they’ll say ‘fine’ but often, I think, students say that because they don’t want to bother me cause they think I’m busy, or they have a class to get to, or they’re intimidated . . . This [the fifteen students at lunch with him] is my chance hear your concerns,” Motley said.

The lunch was the first in a series of lunches Motley plans to have with various student groups. He said he chose to meet with veterans first because there’s more than five hundred on campus, and because it’s as good a place as any to start.

“I know veterans have unique issues . . . so I’d like your honest opinions on what we offer you, and if you have complaints I’d like you to offer some solutions as well,” he said.

Everyone munched their mashed potatoes and chicken as the veterans introduced themselves one by one. While almost every veteran praised Augusto St. Silva for his work as the Veterans’ Resource Center Coordinator and Motley said he’d send St. Silva a thank you card, some complaints began to surface.

The first issue to come up was the small and very public space the Veterans Center has in the Student Activities area.

“Some of the things we’re discussing in there are very personal, and we don’t want people peeking over our partitions,” Caroline Necheles, the Student Veterans Center Coordinator, said.

Once the ice was broken, more and more thoughts and suggestions for improvement began to pour in from around the room.

Most of these centered on campus access for people with disabilities, including ideas like putting Braille labels outside of classrooms and making more entry points on campus for wheelchairs. As of now, wheelchairs can only get on and off campus through the Campus Center.

One veteran mentioned the missing bike racks near the Campus Center and the Library, and Motley said that would probably be the easiest issue to solve.

The Chancellor seemed energized by hearing these complaints, and said he’d be working with his Vice Chancellors to solve the problems.

“See this is what I’m talking about. This is good,” he said, leaning forward and writing notes in a thick leather binder.

“People will say ‘Chancellor Motley said…’ about these things I never even hear about . . . That’s why this lunch is designed. I want to find out from you what’s going on so we can work to fix it before I get blamed.”

The lunch meeting was cut short after two hours, when Motley had to leave for another engagement. But before leaving he declared the lunch a success and shook everybody’s hand.

“When I see you in the hallway now I know you. So I’m expecting you to have some good things to say to me,” he said.