Durden Discusses Office Hours

Meghan Rasmussen ’14, Contributing Writer

Durden ’71 talks with a student during his office hours. His next hours will be held on March 19th.
Durden ’71 talks with a student during his office hours. His next hours will be held on March 19th.

President William Durden ’71 is ending his term at Dickinson College with his final semester of office hours. Started at the beginning of his presidency, the office hours have become a chance to informally speak with students on topics of their choosing.
This interview was conducted during his office hours on Wednesday, Feb. 26, in the Biblio Café. His next office hours will be Tuesday, March 19 at 3 p.m. in the Underground.

Meghan Rasmussen ’14: To begin, why did you decide to start holding office hours? Is this something that other college presidents do?

William Durden ’71: I have no idea what other college presidents do. No, I talk to students a lot without having office hours, but I think sometimes it’s good just to know there is a certain time when I’m actually there. That’s why I started it. It was a lot of years ago…that I started them.

MR: How long ago did you begin holding office hours?

WD: I have no idea: it was that long ago. I think it was the beginning. Fourteen years now.

MR: What is the spectrum of people that take advantage of your office hours?

WD: It’s a full spectrum. It’s students who are working on individual projects. The last person who just met with me was wondering about majors. She is an international student and was wondering how majors would trend over there…So, it can really be anything. Most students don’t go into a particular discipline case; they know I’m not there to talk about a particular discipline, so it’s broader issues, but good issues.

MR: Are you ever surprised by some of the questions that you’re asked?

WD: Not anymore…I’ve been around education and people for a long time, so I can’t think of anything that has really surprised me. All good questions and good observations.

MR: What good ideas have come out of this forum?

WD: I think the group that is going to see me in just a little bit, they’ve been working on some ideas about divestment in the endowment from fossil fuels. They’ve talked to me about that and how to move forward. There are so many ideas;…even having the Quarry…probably came from a discussion from students at one of these meetings. A lot that you see is really from student discussions.

MR: Are the ideas discussed at office hours ever shared with the Dickinson community outside of this space?

WD: Well, they are, but they don’t know it. I don’t reveal where it came from. What I try to do is, like with the last student I just met with, I try to put students in touch with other students or in touch with alumni. Or, if there is something that comes up that seems to me puzzling on a policy level, I’ll email immediately. There is always an immediate turn around. If someone brings something up, I’ll immediately contact somebody for an answer so there is always a follow up. But, yes, there are things that have come out of this, but I don’t say ‘this is what has happened.’ I think people might shy away from talking. But, a lot that has happened has come out of these meetings.

MR: What are some of your most memorable moments?

WD: You know, this will be an odd thing about me. I keep moving on. I just don’t even remember. I just move on to the next thing. So, if people were to ask me about the past fourteen years, I’m silent about it because I just keep moving on. There is a lot going on in my head, and if I kept that there it just wouldn’t work. There’s stuff that has to still come in. So, I think…there is nothing that has been confounding or anything. Just the willingness of students. There was a moment once when it was really fun. I started with one student for a discussion, then more joined and then more joined, and we had a big discussion going. That was pretty memorable. That was great. The discussion took off.

MR: Is collaborating ideas and discussion your favorite aspect of office hours?

WD: Oh, yes. Discussion. Just to hear them talking. It just helps me see what students are thinking, how they are thinking. It’s good.

MR: Finally, what will you miss most about office hours?

WD: Office hours! Talking to students. I won’t have office hours anymore. I love the contact with the students in here and their developing thoughts and that is what is a lot of fun. It’s…why I did another level of this…I’ve offered all seniors to come…see me. I just did one of those today. So, it’s another form of this. But that’s more directed at what’s next…: where are they going? That’s been fun, too. That’s what I’ll miss. Maybe in Baltimore I’ll just go to a restaurant or a café and put down a sign that says ‘office hours.’