Can You Hear Me?


Do you remember what the pitch man in the Verizon commercials used to say? “Can you hear me?” That’s also what I used to think, before I joined the SIPC. Can they hear me? I would wonder. Are they paying any attention to what I was thinking? Many of you are probably wondering that now. I can tell you, we do listen, we do pay attention, we do hear you. For example, we’ve been looking at the 2016 Summer Institute Survey results. We spent several hours talking about what you had to say, discussing your problems and possible solutions, and considering your suggestions for improvements. We’re not done thinking about it, either. Would you like to know what you said?

There were 105 respondents to our survey, approximately one fifth of the attendees.  Not everybody answered every question. Of those who did, 71.72% were “very satisfied” with Summer Institute, and 21.21% were “somewhat satisfied.” We were, naturally, very happy to see this, but we were more concerned with the 3.03% who were “neutral,” the 2.02% who were “somewhat dissatisfied,” and the 2.02% who were “very dissatisfied.” We paid special attention to those people and their comments, hoping we could fix things.

The major areas of complaint were:

FOOD – A lot of people did not like the food at Stephenson Dining Hall. In fact, 11.54% of people were very dissatisfied. That’s a fairly high percentage.  Reasons for not liking it included complaints about lack of variety, especially in the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free categories, the fact that they often ran out of bacon, and the general quality.

Someone complained that it was “college food.” They are correct. After all, Oberlin is a college. We’d like the food to be better, and we will be talking to Oberlin during the year about improving it.

HEAT – Yes, it was hot. We offer air conditioned dorm rooms on a first come, first served basis, for a higher charge that is not covered if you have a campership. If you want an air conditioned room, it’s a good idea to register early, and be prepared to pay extra.

As far as the community rooms go, many are air conditioned. A few at First Church aren’t. Last year, we bought and installed air conditioners for some rooms that were up and running. Unfortunately, they were doing some renovations, which meant that we couldn’t always get into the rooms we wanted. Next year, the renovations will be completed, and more rooms will be air conditioned by the church, so we should be cooler for Religious Education.

Another room that was hot was the large room at Wilder where the dance was held. This year, the dance was held in conjunction with the Ice Cream Social and Movie Night, sort of a total entertainment package. If we move the dance, we won’t have the patio for the ice cream or the theatre for the movie.  (By the way, the theatre room was air conditioned. Next year, come on in and sit down.) We liked the way this worked out. If we can come up with a cooler venue, we’ll consider it.

DANCE – Not only was it warm, but several people insisted that we need live music. That’s more a matter of taste than anything else. But there’s a financial consideration as well. We used to have live music because a band attended SI. It no longer does, and hiring a band is much more expensive than hiring a disk jockey. Someone suggested that we offer camperships for people to play, however more camperships raises costs for everyone. We’ll probably be using a DJ for the foreseeable future.

THE PUB – There were a few big complaints about the Pub, ranging from the music being the same night after night to noise competition between groups. The SIPC has formed a sub-committee (or a “Pub-committee”) to come up with solutions to the problems.

And, finally, the biggest area of complaint (except, maybe, for the food) –

THE POOL – Yes, the pool was a problem. It will be an even bigger problem next year, so we’re going to make our own fun alternatives.

As some of you may know, we were not supposed to have access to the pool this year, as plans call for the athletic center to be torn down and rebuilt. Earlier this year, Oberlin informed us that plans have been delayed, and that we would have access to the pool after all. So we planned for it.

Unfortunately, Oberlin has certain policies about the pool, owing to things like insurance and running things smoothly. Lifeguards must be employees of the school, and must have certification in lifeguarding from the same group. (There are at least three out there, including the Red Cross.) We cannot, therefore, bring our own lifeguards in. Liability issues prevent it, and state that the pool must be closed if there are no guards. Unfortunately, the guard hired for our times was seriously ill, and Oberlin had no back-up, as their lifeguards tend to be students, so they’re not around during the summer.

We did add the Slip-n-slide (shout-out to Steve Wagner for the Slip-n-Slide kickball!), and other water games to help with the younger kids. Next year, when the pool is being rebuilt, we are forewarned, and will have things in place to substitute for the lack of swimming. If you have a great idea for an afternoon cool-down activity that you can lead,  please submit a workshop proposal, we’d love to hear it! (submit them here)

There was other feedback and suggestions, too many to summarize. We’ve talked about all of them, and will talk more in the future. We particularly liked the suggestion about assigning a specific time for church pictures. Please don’t think that any of this is decided. We have many months before the 2017 SI, and we will continue to factor the results of the survey into our plans. And not only the survey. You know how to get in touch with us. If you have an idea, or a suggestion, please let us know. We can hear you.

Bruce Kent, SIPC Co-Chair