Weissman Holds First Open Hours as President


Photo Courtesy of Dickinson Gateway

Neil Weissman

Becca Stout ’20, Contributing Writer

Dickinson’s Interim President Neil Weissman held his first open hour from two to three p.m. on Friday, September 16, 2016, in the Biblio Café in the library.

While only a couple of students were in attendance, Weissman spent the entirety of the hour talking to them about their opinions on Dickinson.

At the end of the hour, The Dickinsonian sat down with Weissman to discuss open hours and his outlook on the rest of the year.

The Dickinsonian: What is your outlook on the rest of the year?

Neil Weissman: My outlook on the rest of this year is very positive. I think the college overall is in very good shape. We’ve had a good year in terms of recruitment. Everything I hear about the first-year class is positive. We just finished a very good year in terms of the college’s budget, and we’ve also conducted a strategic planning process. And even though it wasn’t finished, the committee that worked on this strategic plan thought we should pause until we have a new president, but even so the committee did a report… There seems to be a lot of consensus about the college’s direction. People feel by and large we are moving in a forward direction but also [towards] some good new thinking. There are [still] important issues that we need to be working on. Inclusivity is one that comes to mind immediately, but I think there’s been really good communication and collaboration between students who are very concerned about that in a college and that we’ve made a lot of constructive progress. So overall, very positive.

TD: Why are open hours important to you?

NW: The college exists for students. That’s why we were chartered, and so I always point out during the admissions events that we’re an undergraduate institution only because we want to be. We want to focus all of our resources on undergraduate students. So you [the undergraduates] are obviously our top priority. On top of which, I really have consistently enjoyed, as a professor and then as an administrator, interacting with Dickinson students… it’s always been an engaging and worthwhile experience for me. As provost, honestly, I’m mostly working with committees that tend to be dominated by faculty and administrators, and I’m not able to teach anymore, so finding as many ways as possible to have conversations with students is a high priority. Open hours are a way to do that. I know there is a certain artificiality to it and I wonder if students really imagine how seriously I and my predecessors take it, even if it’s for a relaxed conversation. And it’s fine if people have issues: I really do want to know what students are thinking, but even if there is no particular complaint, that’s fine too.

TD: How do you think today’s open hour went?

NW: I enjoyed talking to the two [students]. And for me as the first time through, it’s fine there was modest attendance because it gives me a chance to think through the next time, when I do it, how it might be a little different, but I enjoyed it. I had a good time, and I’m open to suggestions…on when’s the best time to [hold open hours]; where’s the best time to do it… I am only one person, and the student body has me outnumbered 2400 to one, but I am searching for opportunities to show up: whether it’s attending the most recent student vigil… or showing up to athletic events when I can. I enjoy it.