President Denise Battles hosted the first Fireside Chat of the year on Friday Sept. 16 at 9 a.m. in the Fireside Lounge of the MacVittie College Union. During Fireside Chats, Battles volunteers an hour out of her busy schedule to hear the students of Geneseo voice the issues within the community. She started these chats in Dec. 2015 in order to give students the opportunity to meet in a comfortable, informal environment.
“As a new president, I was getting lots of requests from people to meet up,” Battles said. “In order to meet these demands, I started Fireside Chats so students could talk to me directly.”
Assistant to the President Gayle Dyckman, Senior Associate to the President Heather Lobban-Viravong and Secretary to the President Christie Reed all accompanied Battles to the Fireside Chat.
Due to the time and date, I was the only student who attended the chat on Friday. Being the only person there allowed me to have the undivided attention of Battles and her accompanying staff.
I first addressed the decline in applications to Geneseo, something that I have heard many of my peers discuss. I couldn’t fathom why less people applied to Geneseo in recent years, given its reputation as one of the top SUNY schools.
“A lot of institutions in the northeast have been experiencing this phenomenon,” Battles said. “If you look at the amount of 18-year-olds, the numbers have been declining in New York State. You have a number of institutions that are competing for a diminishing amount of students, so we are not alone in these types of things. People who project [population growth] figure that we are going to be in a valley for the next five years.”
While Geneseo received fewer applicants in the past year, the school still stands among the top schools in New York. According to United States World News & World Report, Geneseo ranks 14th in the northern region of universities and second in the top public schools.
I felt it was appropriate to also discuss the death of Geneseo’s former Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Donald Lackey. I wondered why students were excluded from the email announcing his death—sent out to all faculty—so I inquired whether administrators intentionally hid it from the student population.
“This was a retiree of our college—I believe he retired around 2003,” Battles said. “He had worked here for a long time, but not during the time our students would have been here. I suppose that we could have notified students, but I’m not sure if our students would have had a chance to interact with him in the past just because he’s been retired for a few years.”
As the president of Geneseo, Battles must keep up with the current events occurring in the community. Despite her high authoritative position, Battles remains an incredibly friendly and personable leader who cares about the students of Geneseo.
Fireside Chats are an opportunity to get to know Battles on a more personal level and a chance to voice any concerns or ask questions. It is something that students across campus should take advantage of—though Battles assured not again at 9 a.m. on a Friday.