AU faculty members consider community hour proposal, resolution denied by student senate

Sean Repuyan, Features Editor

*This story has been corrected to better clarify that community hour was proposed by Student Affairs and the Office of Christian Ministry.*

The Offices of Christian Ministry and Student Affairs have recently proposed implementing a community hour to the weekly schedule of the Ashland community.

The Community Hour proposal is intended to foster community-building on Ashland’s campus, advocating for the allotment of one “protected” hour each week during the fall and spring semesters for various events and activities.

Such events could include campus-wide lecture series, keynote speakers and opportunities for students and faculty to showcase their work to a wider campus audience.

However, the original resolution was denied by the Student Senate.

“The resolution was designed to ask students if the idea was of interest to them,” Dr. Robert Pool, vice president of student affairs said.

According to Pool, although students recognized the purpose of the idea and expressed interest in the possibility of it moving forward, issues arose surrounding the logistics of the proposal, particularly the scheduling difficulties.

“One of the best ways to express community values is through service,” he added. “We need students to want to serve again since Covid has shut things down. One of the best ways to improve our mental health is by serving others.”

Rev. Dr. Charles Neff, executive director of the Office of Christian Ministry, spearheaded the discussion and proposed the original idea.

“I’ve seen something similar at other institutions, used for student-focused opportunities,” Neff said. “It seemed like, especially coming out of Covid, community hour could help foster community.”

Neff explained that even with the initial denial from the Student Senate, the proposal would still be pursued by the Faculty Senate to move the idea forward.

The idea has been positively received with many discussions indicating a widespread desire to come together as a community, according to both Pool and Neff.

“If, ultimately, a weekly community hour was deemed to be unattainable, we would look at other options to propose that would serve some of the same purposes as the original, could be monthly or biweekly,” Neff continued.

Initial surveys to AU faculty and staff have indicated an interest in the idea, however similar to the Student Senate, many discussions covered the issues surrounding scheduling conflicts including classes as well as athletic practices, or lack of initial attendance.

Some responses referenced student incentives or participation from other AU campuses or online student populations.

Based on the survey responses, the overall consensus, Neff describes, is that “recognizing there is a hunger for community will help us to better plan for the future.”

In 2019, AU launched a strategic planning effort with a purpose to bring together the whole Ashland community and identify one Ashland, Pool said.

“As human beings, we are designed to be in a community. We thrive on discussions in community and are not able to be who we truly are in isolation. We know the community idea is not yet reached,” Pool concluded.