President George Benson and his Executive Team meet and talk with students at the Town Hall Meeting. Benson highlighted certain initiatives including the promotion of diversity and the Strategic Plan during the meeting. (Sarah Sheafer / GSO)

Benson speaks at Student Town Hall Meeting, acknowledges obstacles to recent initiatives

President George Benson and his Executive Team meet and talk with students at the Town Hall Meeting. Benson highlighted certain initiatives including the promotion of diversity and the Strategic Plan during the meeting. (Sarah Sheafer / GSO)

President George Benson and his Executive Team meet and talk with students at the Town Hall Meeting. Benson highlighted certain initiatives including the promotion of diversity and the Strategic Plan during the meeting. (Sarah Sheafer / GSO)

During the Student Town Hall Meeting on Oct. 25, students gathered in the Stern Ballroom to listen and ask questions to President George Benson and his Executive Team. Benson focused the attention of the meeting on six main areas, which included the current budget, Strategic Plan, diversity, fundraising, environmental sustainability and facilities.

Benson highlighted the Strategic Plan, which will include physical changes, such as facility renovations, to the College. The goal of the plan is to make the College the number one public liberal arts and science school in the southeast by 2020. ***While the College has big initiatives on the horizon, it does face several hurdles. The two main obstacles include limited resources in the form of land and money. However, the College is trying to make adjustments in order to fix this.

According to Benson, the College faces $1.1 million in cuts from the state this year with a total of $17 million since 2008. Benson said, “We continue to cope with quite serious cuts from the state of South Carolina.” Even though Benson said the College has chosen not to fill some vacant spots because of the continual decrease in funding, he said it is a low probability that current faculty will receive cuts.

Benson also mentioned that the College is trying to catch-up on two other areas, which include diversity among students and faculty and environmental sustainability on campus. Benson said, “Diversity is one of our highest priorities at the College of Charleston. It has been and will be for some time. We acknowledge that we have a way to go.” In addition to the physical changes included in the Strategic Plan, a part about diversity will be included with the whole package.

While the Strategic Plan will not face completion by the time current freshmen graduate, Benson said students will start to feel positive changes as the plan begins implementation. The College has already witnessed several changes this year. For example, the Office of Sustainability was recently created at the beginning of this academic year. Benson said, “I am thrilled with (Director) Brian Fisher and thrilled with the creation of the office. We will see more and more as we go along.” Interns in the office are already discussing projects, such as research involving green roofs and a water-catchment system. But initiatives are not just limited to the interns in the office; students may seek financial assistance for sustainability projects by applying for a grant by Nov. 15 to the Office of Sustainability.

Another change that will soon near competition is the renovations of Hungry Cougar into the City Bistro. The new food service facility will open for full service tomorrow, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m. for lunch. According to Benson, City Bistro is double the size of the old Hungry Cougar with more options and a bigger menu. Benson said these changes to the College “should be a nice step upward.”

While the Strategic Plan will not finish competition until after current students have already graduated, the process involving physical and sometimes other initiatives, such as the promotion of diversity and sustainability, have already directly affected students. Such changes will continue as the academic year progresses, especially when the Strategic Plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees in January.

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Sarah Sheafer is the editor-in-chief of CisternYard News. She is a senior, double majoring in political science and international studies with a focus in the Middle East.


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