Consultant examines college-student communication

The college hired an independent consultant on a one-time contract to analyze communications between students and the administration in the wake of the #ThisIsEmerson protest.

Consultant Kristina Smith conducted research on the school’s methods of communicating information to the students during a week-long visit to Emerson. She said she spoke to students, faculty, the Council on Inclusive Excellence, and student organizations like the Student Government Association and Protesting Oppression with Educational Reform.

She then released a report to President M. Lee Pelton, Social Justice Center Vice President Sylvia Spears, and Provost Michaele Whelan.

Her report stated emails sent to students should be succinct yet sincere in tone with links to further information, and should come within 24 hours of the event that prompts the email, she said.

“Although emails were sent out, somehow that information was not getting to the students,” Smith said.

The report also urged the college to send messages through multiple platforms, not just emails—which are commonly used to communicate school-wide messages. The administration has yet to say how they plan to implement her report.

Smith is a 1974 Emerson graduate and a member of Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interest Alumni Association. She volunteered to assist the college in its efforts to improve diversity on campus a few days after the protest. Spears then directed Smith to the area of communication, which was also identified as a problem by students during the walk-in.

“It seems like a lot of the times, the administration relies on old patterns of communication,” SGA Executive President Anne Makielski said. “It’s partially the administration communicating with us and students being willing to listen. There’s obviously a disconnect somewhere along those lines.”  

During the protest, many students, like co-chair of POWER Lucie Pereira, said the administration had done little to improve their experiences since the last round of walk-ins in 2015.

“From the perspective of those of us with longevity, it can seem like a huge amount of change in 10 years. But if you’re only here for four years, you don’t want to spend any of those years feeling alienated, marginalized, or unsupported,” Spears said. “The students always push the institution to do better, and to do it more quickly.”

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