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The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

Principia’s future near and far discussed at town hall, from spring semester to pilot admissions program


By Peter Hagenlocher

Yesterday’s Town Hall covered everything from plans for the spring semester to the draft for a Student Code of Conduct. Currently sitting at 27 pages, the draft is hefty but covers in detail the proposed shift in values “from individual morality to the shaping and realization of shared community norms,” according to an Oct. 15 Watercooler announcement.

Presented by the Office of Student Life, the draft draws from best practices of other institutions of higher education, as well as input from Principia students via surveys.

According to Dean of Students Maya Dietz, there will be a two-week period where students, faculty, and staff may comment on the draft. This will inform revisions and additions as Student Life works to finalize the Student Code of Conduct.

A multi-part initiative has launched which includes a new app and a revamp of the website. Principia has set aside funding to engage a strategic marketing firm, which will hopefully begin work towards the end of the year. 

In the short term, in an effort to capitalize on the next few months, the college will reach out to about 8,500 students selected off of the ACT list, based on three dimensions: whether they’re within driving distance, meet the basic admissions criteria for academics, and are interested in being on a drug, tobacco, and alcohol-free campus. “There is no religious restriction,” said College President John Williams – just the stated interest in a substance-free environment. 

“It’s not admissions,” said Williams, but rather a first attempt to invite a possible cohort of students to explore whether or not they’re interested in attending Principia. “From there, we can start having conversations.”

Dean of Academics Meggan Madden, Williams, and Dietz also announced that a decision will soon be made regarding spring semester. A vast majority of the community responded – over 60% of students, 91% of faculty, and 96% of staff – to the survey recently sent out presenting a number of possible scenarios for the spring. “They’re just scenarios to get a sense of the diversity of thought” surrounding the spring, said Williams, “and true to form, we’re all over the map.”

The next step is to evaluate the most popular options and consider the health aspects, which are twofold – the physical health concerns brought by the coronavirus, and mental exhaustion from having 15 weeks with no break. College leadership is aiming to have a final decision regarding the spring semester within two weeks, said Williams.

Meanwhile, sports were discussed in the Town Hall as well, from the search for a volleyball coach to the reality of sports seasons during the pandemic. For athletes playing soccer, rugby, and basketball, there is a possibility that seasons will take place in the spring semester, alongside the usual spring sports.

The Wholeness Center is already open to students, although Becky Coles, the director, is working with house presidents to coordinate a “soft launch,” said Dietz, in which the space would be open for students to explore by house. It’s currently in Buck House, although it will likely move to a more permanent location eventually.

This weekend, Principia is celebrating homecoming – albeit virtually. The weekend kicked off on Oct. 16 with Pub Shakes with the President – a conversation with Williams which unveiled a contest for a new flavor, a video tour of the campus, and a virtual alumni concert.  A 5K race is planned for 9:00 a.m. CDT, Oct. 17,  and will take place both on the cross country course and virtually.

This year, there are some unconventional prizes, including fastest time, most difficult, most creative, and most scenic. Williams plans to participate on a bike, and an alumni plans to do it on horseback, said Dietz.

Graduation has been confirmed for Sunday, May 16. The classes of 2020 and 2021 will both graduate within one longer ceremony, but classes will be recognized separately, ideally with individual baccalaureate and international speakers.

Regarding the upcoming winter break and spring semester, Williams brought some attention to the issues listed below.

  • There will be fewer rules during the holidays for families who live on campus, including allowing relatives to visit. This will be subject to change, and contingent on daily monitoring and alerting from the front gate of expected visitors.
  • Preserving each Principia Christmas tradition for those staying on campus is a priority, although they may each take place in “very different formats,” and Williams, welcoming suggestions.

Featured photo is a screenshot of the Oct. 16, 2020 college Town Hall, hosted by President John Williams, Dean of Academics Meggan Madden, Student Body President Sarah Ungerleider, Student Body Vice President Elliot Matthiesen, and Dean of Students Maya Dietz.

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