BLUEFIELD —  Internal, external and often infernal, the Bluefield State College board of trustees and administration had a two-hour air-clearing discussion with representatives of the classified staff, faculty and student body that was charged with emotion, but ended in a bang.

The trustees opened up with Robert E. “Bob” Perkinson Jr., the board’s vice chair, assuming the role of chair for the “discussion,” following the resignation of board Chair Roger Topping, who resigned on Friday after an unfortunate choice of words in an email reply to BSC President Dr. Marsha Krotseng went “reply all” and brought several issues that had been apparently festering for some time to the surface.

Perkinson attempted to extend an olive branch to the faculty and classified staff in the form of “resolution of appreciation” in response to “inappropriate comments that were said” in an email that was not intended for widespread circulation. Perkinson said that in an effort to return to common ground, “it will take time.”

“Do you feel like you have time on your side?” Carolyn Kirby asked near the end of a long and sometimes tense meeting. She turned to the faculty and staff members seated behind her and asked for a show of hands, but none were raised. “We are at a very difficult time.”

Kirby appeared to be near tears when she expressed her love for BSC and for the unique educational opportunity it gives to students. She said that when she joined the staff in 1997, she intended to retire from BSC. “Today, I have a very hard time,” she said. She said the classified staff is asking to be a creative part of the college’s future. The staff and faculty gathered in Hebert Gallery of the Harris-Jefferson Student Center erupted in applause.

Perkinson asked The Reverend James Palmer to conduct the discussion. He took the staff and faculty’s concerns about student enrollment and asked Shelia Johnson, vice president of Finance and administrative Affairs, Dr. Jo-Ann Robinson, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management as well as Dr. Zakir Hossain, BSC Provost to comment on efforts and strategies. Each provided detailed responses to the questions, but the responses brought additional questions.

Dan Frost, BSC Classified Staff representative was not present at the meeting, but participated via teleconferencing. He questioned the present scheduling system that provides challenges to students in certain majors. Jerry Perdue, BSC Student Government Association president lamented the fact that the scheduling system is making it hard for students to graduate in four years. “You have to give us two years of what’s coming.”

Dr. Peggy Johnson said that even with a master schedule, when there are only a few students enrolled in a program, classes are cut.

Kirby expressed the “morale issue,” at the college, and urged the board to address the issue of “bullying” at the college when the issue goes beyond simply saying: “Just buck up and get over it,” she said.

Norris Kantor asked for a specific instance of bullying, but Kirby refused to relate anything told to her by a classified staff member.

Perkinson closed the discussion meeting by agreeing to work out a time for another meeting to continue the discussion.

“I would like to say this,” Krotseng said. “I personally value every one of you. Our students are critical to our success. We could not do what you do to serve our students.”

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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