PPI Holds Assembly

Several hundred WCU students, faculty, and staff participated in the Public Policy Institute’s community assembly, “Revitalizing the Spirit of WCU: Creating Participation and High Morale,” held Oct. 3 in the Grandroom of the University Center. The assembly, which was also sponsored by the Student Government Association and the Western Carolinian, brought groups within the university community together to discuss the status of community at WCU and what can be done to improve its sense of community. Among the keynote speakers at the assembly were John Bardo, chancellor; Penny Smith, associate professor of educational leadership and foundation; Bob Orr, computer consultant; Casey Hurley, chair of the faculty; Jermaine Perry, student body vice president; Tripp Spangler, student government representative; and Brittany Harrison, student government representative. Bardo gave his definition of community in sociological terms, stating that a community is a “sense of belonging” based on a set of interactions, shared values, and commonness of kind. He also proposed that WCU’s low rate of freshman retention is caused by a failure of the community, and that freshmen who consider leaving have not found the intertwining relationships that would help them attach themselves to WCU. Perry focused on spirit as an important element in community, saying that the WCU community needs to realize that WCU is an entity unto itself and the students are its heart. Because they are central to the community, Perry encouraged students to conduct themselves well and to support the cultural and athletic events that are offered by the university. WCU must strive to be the “beacon of Western North Carolina,” giving light to the surrounding community and allowing itself to be influenced as well, according to Spangler. After the speakers gave their thoughts on community, those in the audience had a chance to give their opinions, and then participants split into policy panels to give their recommendations for policy changes to improve WCU’s sense of community.