Friday Letter, 5-19-17

Today’s Friday Letter focuses mostly on a long-term discussion about the idea of our campus hosting Tent City.

Last Spring, I was presented with a recommendation by a campus task force suggesting that we should bring Tent City to campus for three months as a means of fulfilling our mission around integrated education in a learning-centered environment.  The interactions offered by such an event would create opportunities for us to teach our students how to apply their education to real world issues.  I responded to this recommendation by saying that we were not ready as a campus.

There were several criteria that needed to be met in order for me to feel more comfortable with this opportunity. These criteria included:

  • A report from UW Seattle about their hosting experience. They hosted last winter and I was hoping to better understand how this impacted campus. The leader of the effort at UW Seattle (Sally Clark) came to campus last month and spoke with several of us including our Pluralism Committee, a representative from the original campus Task Force, and a representative from UW Bothell.
  • A conversation with UWB about their willingness to co-sponsor the hosting. There exists an RCW that actually prevents any camping specifically on our campus. In order to get an exception to the RCW, both the Chancellor of UWB and I would have to request this of the Secretary of State. I had a conversation with UWB on Monday of this week about Tent City.
  • An understanding of the impact on human resources and financial resources. Many of you attended last week’s budget meetings and understand the state of the budget. Also, I continue to be concerned about the capacity of our faculty and staff to take on more things. This concern has been validated through my Coffee for Threes.
  • The identification of an appropriate space. This has gotten more complicated over the year as we have been on the hunt for spaces to build our next parking lot.
  • And, finally, a personal belief that our campus was culturally ready to host.

These were the things I wanted to consider before saying “yes.” As of today, I’ve had the opportunity to find the answers and have the conversations. Let’s talk about each of the 5 points (this time in backwards order…):

  • I believe the campus is culturally ready. The work we have done in DIA’s and Cavolines affirms for me that this campus believes strongly in inter-cultural competency and is ready to take on the presence of people who have fewer resources than we do.
  • Finding an appropriate space has become more difficult over the year. The space we identified last year has now been designated as the future site of a parking lot, which we hope to start construction on next year. And, after reviewing the campus map with UWB this week, we could not find another site that would allow for the necessities of Tent City. We work on a hillside; there is not much flat space accessible to water.
  • By having my conversation with UW Seattle, I am aware now of the huge impact on staff and finances. As you know, we may be operating in a deficit situation next year. I cannot approve the hosting because I fully believe that it will have a significant fiscal impact. Add to that, UW Seattle ended up taking their monetary support from their foundation because of criticism over using state funds. Our Foundation is not in the same place.
  • The impact on staff was huge. Over 10 departments needed to be involved, including risk management, safety, facilities, grounds, custodial, human resources, etc. As a state agency, we have requirements to staff and attend to such events. And, the common theme about staffing is that most all of these departments report to UWB. Not only were the departments tasked with the care of Tent City, but UW Seattle had an employee devoting 50% of her time to the facilitation of the experience. After a conversation with UWB, we decided we cannot afford to divert our staff to the support of Tent City at this time. We cannot afford the overtime and, like most of our employees, they already have full jobs.

So, as you can tell, the decision has been made to not host Tent City. UW Bothell has been a great partner with us over the past year and has been very willing to explore the ideas that come through Cascadia. I appreciated the partnership as we discussed this opportunity and had a frank discussion about our resources and capabilities. We are in agreement on both sides: we do not know where to physically locate them and we cannot afford the cash and staff support.

The Pluralism committee is in agreement with this assessment. They have suggested an opportunity however…

If an off-site entity would take on the hosting of Tent City, perhaps we could partner with them to create an academic connection that could lead to our desire for integrated learning. I am of course open to this and will connect with any local groups that decide to host Tent City.

Thanks for your understanding.

Have a great weekend.

One thought on “Friday Letter, 5-19-17

  1. Thanks for sharing these updates! I was wondering whatever happened to Tent City on campus! 🙂

    – Chelsea

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