Students excluded from President’s address

Carly Davis

President Steve Bahls gave the State of the College address on Feb. 11, updating faculty on how Augustana has fared since the last address was given in 2019.
The State of the College address is given annually, and is usually at the same time as the U.S. President’s State of the Union address. It presents information that is important to Augustana and gives updates on the administrative side of the school. 
In the past, the address has covered student retention rates throughout the year. It reports the number of students staying at Augustana, dropping out of the school or transferring to other institutions. It also updates faculty on student growth in accordance with Augustana 2020 – a document outlining Pres. Bahls’s focused goals for the college in the future. It also covers the annual budget and administrative initiatives, according to the Augustana website. 
Faculty and staff are invited to attend if their schedules do not conflict with the event. Because of this, students and busy faculty are not able to hear how the school is doing. In fact, most students are not aware the address happens at all without being alerted by faculty.
“I think the students who go here have a right to know what’s going on,” sophomore Elisa Wynn said. “I think that we have a right to be up to date. We’re paying a lot of money to attend school here and we should be able to know what’s going on.”
The State of the College is not shared online, like some campus events. Augustana functions, such as select theatre events or WAUG broadcasts, can be live-streamed and shown on either social media or in campus locations. Unlike those events, tickets for the public and students are not available for the address and it is invite-only for faculty and staff.
“I feel like having an in-person address would be good if you gave the opportunity for questions. More like [a forum] than talking at you,” Wynn said. “But I still also think it would be a good idea to have it put online where people can access it.”
Any information shared during the State of the College is not published for students at a later time. Without asking faculty and staff who attended, students will not know what was shared. 
“I feel like any information not given to the public is useless. We’re living in the digital age, we could have someone recording it,” junior Alexander Lunde said. “I think it’s stupid not sharing it.”
While students miss out on any information shared during the address, faculty and staff who do not attend do not have access to it either.
“I think people hear bits and pieces of the information in different committees or in different conversations on campus,” Librarian Anne Earel, who had been scheduled to work during the address, said. “But unless you’re there you don’t really get the synthesis of it all being said at one time.”
Employees are invited to the address a week in advance and are consequently unable to request off during that time so that they can attend. “I wish they would offer them either more than one time during the week or give us more advanced warning,” Earel said.
“I feel it all kind of comes down to like, we’re the students here,” Wynn said. “It’s issues that are important to us, and at the very least, we should have the right to know.”