By Gabby Vanacore | Editor-in-Chief

President Donahue welcomes students to attend his office hours. (Courtesy of Saint Mary’s College)

If students are looking to discuss hot topics like diversity and the campus climate, or if they are simply trying to find out institutional information, President James Donahue invites students to the office hours that he’s currently holding until the end of the spring semester. During some of those office hours, The Collegian sat down with Donahue to discuss the variety of issues that current students posed to him.

“It’s easy in my role to get distant and removed from students,” said Donahue. One of the ways the President combats this, he says, is to head over to Oliver Hall once in a while and sit with a unexpected group of students for lunch to discuss what is on their minds. “It’s all about students, and I want to make sure that I, to the best of my ability, have my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in students lives.”

He recounted that many students come straight to him when they have financial issues, academic questions, or insights into happenings around campus. “People are really looking for guidance, and part of what I can do is point them in the right direction.”

Some of the discussions he’s had touched upon issues related to: financial aid for first-generation students, tuition increases, irregularities in undergraduate and graduate programs, disability services, parking and campus security, and advising and registration.

Donahue believes that students come straight to him—instead of going to other departments on campus, such as the Financial Aid Office or Public Safety—because they are “trying to get a larger institutional perspective as to how the institution is dealing with these particular issues.”

Some students have visited the President in order to speak about some more hard-hitting issues on campus, such as End the Silence (ETS), a student-led movement meant to rectify campus policy seen as unfair to students of certain ethnicities and backgrounds, and the school’s response to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

“I try to be clear about the information we have and what we’re doing here to make sure that students realize that we are doing everything we possibly can to make sure they are protected,” said Donahue.

President Donahue has had several dialogues about race, with some students even coming to him for research projects.

“I don’t want these to turn into complaint sessions necessarily, but people bring issues, not complaints—and there are issues that need to be addressed,” said the President.

However, not all students come with issues, and all are welcome to simply have a dialogue with President Donahue.

The President told The Collegian students have come to him to share stories about personal success or personal challenges.

Donahue made it known that he will be there to listen and give advice for those who are in need of it.

He also spoke a little bit about his conversations regarding the Lasallian Mission of the College in relation to what it means to have a liberal arts education and what Catholicism means here at Saint Mary’s. “There’s not one univocal meaning of what it means to be Catholic,” claims Donahue. “People have various ideas about that.”

For the last couple of years, Donahue has opened up his office on second floor of Filippi Hall in order to do what he can to interact more with students.

“It’s great to meet students—I love students. That’s why we’re here. We’re here for students, and I want to be available to them and supportive of them and engage in conversations about the issues that are on the table,” said the President. “There’s no list of approved topics to talk about. Whatever is on people’s minds I’m happy to [talk about] it.”

From now until the end of the semester, Donahue encourages students to make a 15-minute appointment during his office hours.

He currently has set days and times available, but he will always add more if students show a demand for more.

To make an appointment, visit https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/president/office-hours-for-students.

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