Exclusive Interview with President Davis
On Sept. 23, members of The Paladin’s Editorial Board met with President Elizabeth Davis via Zoom to discuss some of students' burning questions about Furman’s future. President Davis was also joined by VP for University Communications, Tom Evelyn. Here is what we learned:
The spring won’t look that different from the fall. President Davis noted that the fall opening team is already working on plans for the spring, but as of right now the administration is not expecting things to return to normal - especially in the absence of a vaccine. Currently, 300 students are learning remotely for the entire fall semester and while the administration does not anticipate having to be fully virtual in the spring semester, students will again have the option to learn virtually. Tom Evelyn echoed President Davis’s statement about the unlikeliness of drastic change before the spring and agreed that the spring semester could be very much like the fall.
Mandatory COVID-19 vaccines are a possibility. President Davis said that requiring all students to get a vaccine if one were to come out is not out of the question. She understands that people may be reasonably skeptical, but if a safe vaccine were to be released to the public, Furman would attempt to make the vaccine free and accessible to all students. Evelyn added that a vaccine would be a “small component in the efforts to keep the campus safe,” adding that additional measures would continue to be adopted by the University to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Zoom is here to stay. President Davis explained that moving forward, as students become increasingly familiar with Zoom and similar platforms, access to Furman will be broader and more flexible. It is her hope that these platforms will allow students to stay connected to the classroom and pursue various opportunities on or off campus. Some professors have noticed that certain students have thrived in the new learning environment, but in the long-term, she does not believe Furman will become an “online college.” As for the new technology installed in the classrooms, Furman plans to continue using it beyond COVID-19.
Furman still values its residential campus. President Davis underscored the importance of an in-person college experience. In particular, she highlighted leadership opportunities, networking, and social components that make Furman so special.
Student voices matter, sort of. In response to the common student complaint that administrators do not take the student voice into account when making major decisions, President Davis cited that members of SGA regularly meet with the Board of Trustees. She also noted that student organizations can request meetings with her office. Evelyn added that another avenue for communication between the student body and the administration are the Ad Hoc Committees, such as the Ad Hoc Committee Taskforce on Black Life at Furman, that have been created to amplify the student experience. There are no plans, however, to create a platform for the rest of the student body to share their thoughts with administrators.
It is hard to be President in a pandemic. President Davis reminded The Paladin that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has had to make several difficult decisions. “Anything that affects people’s lives is a hard decision,” she said, adding that even if the decision might be the obvious solution, the consequences can still be hard. But, at the end of the day, she reiterated “it is about creating a more sustainable path forward to be able to provide the kind of education students deserve.”
The Paladin will have a follow-up interview with President Davis in November.