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By Sophie Hills

The employee Town Hall meeting today was rich with information and a hint of controversy.

A question about international student recruitment raised more questions than it got answers, a faculty poll explained by Interim President John Williams revealed the college is solidly behind Christian Science but fairly unanimous in support of admitting those who don’t identify with the faith, and the special Christian Science lecture for Principia coming next week was explained.

A Christian Science virtual lecture by the Mother Church’s chairman of the Board of Lectureship will be delivered three times, taking the place of student and employee town hall meetings next week, said interim president John Williams at today’s virtual employee Town Hall meeting. A Pilot article tomorrow will detail the lecture program.

Results of the strawman survey about the pilot admission program – that Williams said suggests to some concerned that college constituents are not going to “go out and blow the doors off of the school” – are explained in a separate Pilot article here.

During the Q&A, questions were raised about recruitment of international students and whether there is a formal or unspoken policy that limits international recruitment, or the number of international students admitted to Principia.

During the Q&A, a series of questions and statements –relayed by Williams and other administrators from private chat on the webinar – bounced repeatedly on what seems to be a grievance about stated or unstated policies that limit the number of international students admitted to Principia.

The discussion starts around minute 31 in the recording of the employee town hall on the resources page here.

“We have a great group of new international students this year,” said Meggan Madden, dean of academics, “and we are still recruiting international students.”  The main problem that new international students are facing now, she added, is obtaining visas.

In an effort to support international and domestic students who didn’t take standardized tests before all testing was canceled, the Faculty Senate today approved a temporary policy intended to ease the process for students without lowering admissions requirements or expectations.

In response to the absence of standardized testing due to COVID-19, the temporary policy enables admissions to use a holistic admissions program.

“We are removing as many barriers as possible,” said Colleen Vucinovich, faculty senate president, adding that Principia admissions is offering four tests and an interview as options, in addition to TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) testing.

Other details discussed included:  

  • Williams reminded listeners that the Illinois stay-at-home order was extended until May 30 with modifications. The clearest, said Williams, is that state parks will be open. “Until we understand [the modifications], the college continues to function as it has been, under the restrictions that we’ve laid out up through this month.”
  • The Illinois governor has officially approved the process that the Office of Student Life established for students to retrieve their  belongings from campus, so it is now an essential activity. “We will continue to follow the same protocols that have been set out,” said Williams. “We know that some have found it sort of onerous, and I’ll acknowledge that, but that’s within the requirements that the order continues.”
  • Madden announced that the board of trustees approved promotions for the following professors:
    • Leah Gallant-McFall to associate professor
    • Nick Johnson to assistant professor
    • Brian Kamusinga to assistant professor
    • John Lovseth to associate professor
    • Winnie Needham to associate professor
    • Peter van Lidth de Jeude to associate professor
  • Principia leadership might consider applying for federal aid offered to both public and private institutions during the COVID-19 crisis, said Williams. Principia has a “tradition of rejecting… federal and state government aid,” said Williams, so legal questions regarding that have yet to be explored.
  • Temporary emergency pay has been extended to the end of the semester for all employees and student workers on the college and school campuses.
  • The Office of Financial Aid is inviting all families to reapply for need-based aid for next year, said Williams, adding that director of financial aid Katie Schiele and her office are approaching families individually.
  • Will Principia students be able to go to class on campus in the fall? Short answer, said Williams: “A decision needs to be reached by July 1.” Principia is closely following what other institutions are deciding to do for the fall semester, he said. Some major state universities have already decided to go online for all of next year, while others are discussing face-to-face. Principia will consider responses of health and governmental authorities. “The operational deadline that we have is July 1,” said Williams. “Our desire would be face-to-face.” Three trustees have been designated to meet with Williams, Principia CE Marshall Ingwerson, and Head of School Travis Brantingham to begin scenario planning for next fall. They were to meet for the first time today.

Featured photo at top from iStock.