By Zoe Crain
On Friday, February 9, 2018, approximately 25-30 students carried their pizza and soda cans into the Davis Learning Center (DLC) Auditorium to listen to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s President, Dr. P. Barry Butler, speak. The President was visiting the Prescott campus to present to faculty, staff, and students about one of the Strategic Implementation Teams (SIT) the university has started: SIT 2, Student Success. Dr. Butler began by providing a contextual overview of the six SITs the university has put together: Enrollment Management, Student Success, Global Strategy, Research and Innovation, Development and Alumni, and Communication and Marketing. These teams have been created to propel the university to success during the coming years.
Each team is made up of Prescott, Daytona Beach, and Worldwide campus representatives, including faculty members, deans, and other necessary individuals. The student success team also has two student representatives, one from Daytona Beach and one from Prescott. Dr. Butler’s forum was meant to provide students with an opportunity to bring up items that they believe are instrumental to student success at Embry-Riddle, as well as ask any questions about the SITs in general. The Prescott students delivered, and pulled no punches.
“I am the Prescott student representative on SIT 2, and I was just wondering how highly these teams are prioritized by administration,” asked Zoe Crain, Student Government Association (SGA) President. “I’ve attended two meetings this semester and attendees seem to be fairly inconsistent, across Prescott and Daytona. Could this be due to a lack of push from administration about how important these teams are?”
Dr. Butler’s answer was appropriately vague. “Well, we of course struggle with finding a meeting time that works for everyone. But I can assure you that all team members do their best to attend all meetings, and those who are unable to attend are expected to review all pertinent materials.” A good answer, of course, but one that does not answer the core of the question asked: whether the university is appropriately supporting these teams that they are advertising so heavily.
The next question came from another student audience member. “So, if students have feedback for the teams, where do they go?” Dr. Butler responded, “Honestly, I don’t quite know yet! If you go onto ERNIE, you can look at the team members and then search them to get their contact information. We’re really looking at getting an online response form started.”
It was noted to the audience by Crain that students could contact her or Dr. Ronald Madler, Dean of the College of Engineering and the chair of the Prescott delegates of SIT 2 if they had feedback specific to SIT 2.
The next set of questions was asked by student Michelle Bennett. “Two things: one, when something from one of these teams is approved, what happens? Where does it go, and how is it disseminated to the Embry-Riddle community? And two, what happens to the items that don’t get approved?”
“All action items are condensed into a short, one-page document for ease of consumption,” said Dr. Butler. “Those documents then guide the university’s decision on how to move forward. And it really comes down to the Board of Trustees (BOT) since they are the governing body of the campus.
“The problem is not all good ideas are able to be executed, due to a multitude of reasons: financial blocks, lack of time and manpower, and lack of willpower to name a few. Because of that, we’re unfortunately unable to execute all ideas brought to the teams, even some of the good ones.” The final noteworthy question came from both SGA President Crain and Vice-President Joshua Abbott, and reflected a viewpoint of much of the Prescott campus.
“One of the main problems that exists in the university is the distinction between the campuses. Why is it the case that Daytona seems to be a part of financial decisions for the Prescott campus?”
“First off, I want to be clear, ‘Daytona’ is not a part of the decisions,” said Dr. Butler. “I really dislike this us-versus-them mentality. The fact is simply that the purchasing office is located in Daytona Beach, but they give no preference to a campus. We really need to be united as a campus to move forward.”
“If that is the case, then what are you going to do about the miscommunication? It breeds separation between the campuses, and unfortunately is a relevant problem,” countered VP Abbott. “Simply put, there’s no way for the university to be successful if we don’t overcome this problem,” reiterated President Butler. “As an outsider coming in to the Embry-Riddle culture, I really don’t understand the divide to begin with. But we cannot be successful without being united.”
Once again, an appropriate answer, but did not answer the follow-up question: how Dr. Butler is planning to fix the campus divide. As a fresh, unbiased individual, Dr. Butler could make great cultural change on the Prescott campus. It is clear that he does not prefer one campus over the other (he has almost visited the Prescott campus more times since he became president one year ago than the last university president did in his first five years on the job), but only time will tell whether he uses his position and power to affect real change to the university.
For more information about the SITs, contact SGA President Zoe Crain at email@example.com.