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ECSU administrator responds to student criticism

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Elizabeth City State University’s chief student affairs officer addressed students and answered their questions Thursday amid a call from student leaders for his dismissal.

Nolan Davis is one of two university administrators — the other is Associate Vice Chancellor Valerie Holmes — that students, including leaders of the Student Government Association and the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have asked Chancellor Thomas Conway to remove from their posts.

Conway said Thursday he would “not pre-announce personnel decisions.” The chancellor defended the two administrators’ performance on several points during an interview while acknowledging he would continue to look into the students’ complaints and concerns.

The Daily Advance was unable to reach Holmes for comment on Friday.

Among the complaints expressed in the letter to Conway from campus NACCP President Matthew Jarvis and other student leaders are that Davis does not interact regularly with students and does not attend as many campus events as he should or stay at events beyond a brief period of time.

The letter also expresses concerns about funding for student organizations and student activities.

Davis, the university’s chief student affairs officer, was a panelist at what ECSU officials called a “town hall” meeting with students Thursday evening at the campus Student Center. Other panelists included campus police Chief John Manley and Suresh Murugan, who heads the university’s Information Technology Office.

In introductory remarks, Davis explained his job is to coordinate all the things that go on outside the classroom. Lately, he said, that has included ordering new furniture for residence hall rooms with badly damaged furniture, addressing a mold infestation in the commuter center/bowling alley, working to repair the outdoor basketball court so it’s safer for students, and working to extend more funding to student organizations.

Shortly after the start of Thursday's town hall meeting, Jarvis turned around to face the 50 or so students in the audience and asked if any had ever seen Davis before that meeting. None of the students raised their hands to indicate they had.

Jarvis then addressed Davis directly and noted he has "student" in his job title yet most students don't know who he is. Jarvis told Davis he feels like he's not a good fit for ECSU.

Davis explained that there are two parts to his job, one of which is "student-facing" and involves interactions with students, and the other, which addresses concerns such as the mold in the campus bowling alley.

Responding to the students' expressed concerns about the frequency and quality of student activities, Davis said there are about three times as many programs scheduled for this fall as there were last year.

Addressing concerns about his attendance at student activities, Davis noted he recently attended a student dance. Jarvis, however, replied that Davis had only stayed about two minutes at the event.

In an interview after the town hall, Davis explained that he had been inside the room where the dance was being held only about 10 minutes but had walked around outside the dance and chatted with various groups of students for about three hours.

"I need to be more visible," Davis said in the interview, acknowledging that his low-key approach to interacting with students seems to leave many not realizing he's even in attendance at certain events.

Earlier during the town hall, Jarvis noted Davis had not attended this year's Down East Viking Classic, an annual football game ECSU plays in Rocky Mount.

Davis said he attended last year’s Down East Viking Classic but not this year’s. He added that many administrators from ECSU were at this year's game, and that he doesn't think anyone should be expected to attend every single university event.

But Jarvis said the Down East Viking Classic is an especially big event for ECSU, and that with so many students in attendance, the university’s chief student affairs officer should be there as well.

According to Jarvis, students they don't see Davis walking around on the campus and interacting with students.

Davis, however, said he does walk on the campus and speak with students.

In the interview after the meeting, Davis also said student programming on a day to day basis is being funded at an increased level. But he added that even if you're improving, if what students want outpaces the improvement it can still seem like you're falling behind.

"We are improving," Davis said. "We are putting the money on the street."

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