Dear Board of Visitors: Listen to the students

JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

Presented at the April 22 Board of Visitors meeting:

Members of the Board,

Today is my last day serving the students of the College of William and Mary as their representative to you. It has been my honor to serve them and to advocate for their interests. I want to give a report on the student experience during my tenure.

I am sad to say that, during the 2020-21 school year, the overall student experience has declined. While there have been noticeable steps to ensure our safety on campus, for which we are thankful, the other issues that plague our campus have been left unresolved. There is a strong feeling amongst the student body that the College is risk averse and that the board would rather play it safe than take a moral stand. There is a common perception that the administration prioritizes donors over students and has shunned the needs of the currently enrolled. There is a feeling amongst the student body that this administration looks down upon its students. 

None of these sentiments are without merit. 

The idea that predicates our modern institution is that we are One Tribe, One Family. However, the relationship between the administration and the student body cannot be described as loving. It is increasingly hostile, and it is tearing at the fabric of our community. Students of color don’t feel safe or welcome on campus and students with mental health issues cannot get help. I can no longer count the number of people I have spoken to who have tried to get help here and have failed to do so, and it was not from a lack of effort. We cannot claim any success in this light, we cannot celebrate or make excuses. The lived experiences of students on campus has not changed and in many cases has gotten worse. I leave this school saddened that more was not done for them, and I am sad that I was not able to do more. 

I implore the board to listen to its students. Go out to them and talk to them as much as possible. Poll them, allow them a legitimate seat at the table, and I guarantee they will do their best and make this school better. We have a wonderfully bright set of students and I’m sure the new class is no exception: they are engaged, studious, and most of all dedicated to seeing this school be the best it can be. If the board went out and used their power legitimately, took their ideas and granted them the power they deserve, we would see changes overnight.

I want to thank Student Assembly President Anthony ‘AJ’ Joseph ’21, Vice President Kyle Vasquez ’21and Chief of Staff Loni Wright ’21 for allowing me the honor to serve, I want to thank the Board for allowing me here, and most of all I want to thank the students here for inspiring me everyday and for leaving me reassured that, if left in their hands, this school will become a better place. The College has slowly crawled towards progress. I hope one day we learn to walk, and then run toward change with open arms. 

Thank you.

Graham Pfeiffer ’21 is majoring in government. He served as the Secretary of Finance for Student Assembly and works as an analyst at Disinfo Lab. Email Graham at gapfeiffer@email.wm.edu.

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