Faculty and staff comment on sense of community at ULV

Jason Neidleman, professor of political science, gives his Artful Reframing lecture noon on Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom. Neidleman talked about his research, which included an analysis of focus group data at the University of La Verne. / photo by Nareg Agopian
Jason Neidleman, professor of political science, gives his Artful Reframing lecture noon on Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom. Neidleman talked about his research, which included an analysis of focus group data at the University of La Verne. / photo by Nareg Agopian

Jasmine Soria
Staff Writer 

Professor of Political Science Jason Neidleman discussed “Faces of Community: Video Excerpts from the Artful Reframing Focus Groups” Tuesday at the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom.

The presentation focused on expanding the University of La Verne story through inclusive voice, discussing the positive aspects the University has to offer and what can be improved. This is part of the “An Artful Reframing” projects. The participants were a sample of faculty and students that was based on their willingness to comment and critique publicly.

Neidleman is also president of the La Verne Academy. He has been at the University for 22 years and is launching a faculty and administration book club. 

The faculty and students were put into focus groups and asked questions around the themes of belonging in the La Verne community, expanding the margins of community, and expanding the sense of community.  

The groups began with the theme of why alumni and faculty decided to attend La Verne. Among much of the faculty, they said that the concept of family is very strong at La Verne. Participants said the community is welcoming and there is always an opportunity to meet new people whether it is during lunch or at the tennis courts. They also mentioned that the University is a safe place and authentic where everyone can be themselves. Others commented on the size of the campus. They said the school has outgrown it and should consider expanding. 

“I really like the size of the campus. That’s one of the reasons why I attended, you get to know people better,” Emily Anaya, sophomore psychology major, said.

Other faculty said the school feels very insulated, that many people who attend the University now work there too. Alumni mentioned that they had to fight for the diversity retreat program and it was not fair that when there are cuts, programs that are positively impacting students take the fall. Faculty members said that when people retire or leave, they do not get replacements and have a heavier workload, leading to not having time to create relationships with students and staff. 

“I feel like I do better when I am able to have a stronger relationship with a teacher on a personal level,” Jordan Ihrig, sophomore psychology major, said. 

The staff members said that the hiring should be more inclusive, not just replacing the people of color who leave, but bringing more in. They mentioned that to do this, the culture in the University must be changed and more respect and trust must be formed. 

Faculty members used to have meetings where everyone would get together and work with one another, get to know each other. Participants said they wish to bring those back. Others commented that they feel like a displaced worker and their input is dismissed creating a toxic environment where speaking up is condemned. They even mentioned that speaking up has a price to pay.

“I do agree with that but would like to know more about how she feels and what is the price that has to be paid?” Placido Gomez, associate dean for academic affairs, said.

Another theme in the focus groups was what can be done to reconstitute the community. Faculty mentioned that the population has increased, but the resources have not. They mentioned that there is not a Hispanic Serving Institute center, but there is a large enough Latino community to create one. Others believe that the University needs to reinstate values from the Church of the Brethren and have abandoned them for financial priorities. Also that the University should host regional networking events so students can meet former and current students. 

“Part of the purpose is to create a public document of this research, hopefully to present it to the next president of (ULV),” Neidleman said. 

The faculty mentioned they felt safe to make their opinion public and hope ULV can take it into consideration to make a change. 

Jasmine Soria can be reached at jasmine.soria@laverne.edu.

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