Open to Question, a series that saw various presentations offered by key members of Concordia’s administration, has ended for the semester amid calls from the CSU for more publicity directed at the student population.
The series’ five conferences, which included one by president Judith Woodsworth and a presentation by provost David Graham touching on the role of universities, seemed more successful in drawing out faculty and employees than students. CSU president Heather Lucas would like this to change by the time Open to Question returns next semester.
“The administration could do more to attract students, first of all by letting students know that this series exists,” she said. “I think if students were more aware that this was happening, then there would be more of a desire for students to engage with this series.”
Lucas had already spoken out against the lack of student participation following president Woodsworth’s conference in September, when the majority of those who filled J. A. de SÃ¨ve Cinema were not Concordia students. The CSU president had also found that president Woodsworth focused mostly on the university’s achievements and skirted around more controversial topics, such as rising tuition fees, during her presentation.
At Graham’s conference on Sept. 27, only about two of the 45 people in attendance were students. One potential reason for this notable absence was offered at the time by Alex Oster, interim coordinator of student life relations at the dean of students office, who pointed out that the Loyola presentation was held at lunchtime and its subject may have been a bit “esoteric.”
According to a press release issued by the administration, Open to Question made it easier to know more about different areas “outside one’s usual realm at the university.” But most students clearly missed this opportunity, something Concordia spokeswoman Chris Mota qualified as unfortunate.
“We would certainly like to get more students in those seats,” she said. “But in terms of publicity, information on the upcoming Open to Question conference was always included in the NOW newsletter sent out every month to students. One of the articles was also headlined with “Calling all students,’ so they were definitely targeted.”
Mota chalked up low student attendance to their busy schedules and the fact that Open to Question is a relatively new initiative. However, Lucas still feels that more awareness is needed among students.
“There is a potential for this to be a great forum for the Concordia community to hold its administration accountable, if everyone just knew about it,” she said. “I know on the CSU’s end, we will do our best to promote this through our mailer and encourage more students to participate in this forum.”
As for next semester, the administration will begin rolling out the topics of the Open to Question presentations in January.
“We do have some subjects confirmed, but we will be announcing them once we have our speakers lined up,” said Mota. “All of our speakers occupy various important positions within the university and it really is advantageous to the students to attend and hear what they have to say.”