‘We are the new founders’: Gators gather over social weekend

Cole hosts all-campus gathering

Dean for Student Success Ian Binnington (left) races Associate Professor and Chair of Mathematics Craig Dodge (right) in the “Bungee Run” at the all-campus gathering on Friday, Oct. 21.

An Oct. 14 email by Allegheny College invited students, faculty and staff to an all-campus gathering on Friday, Oct. 21. The theme: “We are Allegheny.”
“We must have faith in our history, our future, and most importantly, our present,” said Sydney Emerson, ’23, who spoke as a representative for the students. “Our actions today determine the Allegheny of tomorrow. We are the new founders.”
The event started at 2:30 p.m. on the Bentley Lawn as members of the Allegheny community began to gather. All classes and non-essential events after 2:30 p.m. were canceled for the gathering to give everyone the opportunity of attending.
The event formally began with speeches from Cole and representatives from the student body, hourly staff and faculty. Dean for Student Success Ian Binnington assumed the role of master of ceremonies.
In his introduction, Binnington expressed his deep connection to the college and elaborated on his long-term friendship with Cole.
“I’ve known Ron since the beginning of my time at Allegheny … I have seen him take different positions,” Binnington said. “I believe in Ron, I have always believed in Ron and I hope you will as well.”
Emerson spoke first. She was followed by Associate Director of Alumni and Employer Engagement Autumn Parker, ’16, who represented the Alumni, and Office Manager in Alumni Affairs Linda Lees who spoke as a staff representative.
Professor of English Ben Slote, representative of the faculty, and Cole were the final two speakers respectively.
In his speech, Cole emphasized his love for Allegheny and reinforced his belief in the college’s future.
“I believe in Allegheny and I believe in you,” Cole said.
Upon the conclusion of the formal ceremony, attendees were free to interact with the various activities present.
The activities and attractions on offer at the event included inflatable games from Crazy Monkey Inc. of Erie, PA.
Bungee run and axe-throwing were among the most popular inflatable games located on Brooks Walk.
“I enjoyed going on the bungee run against my friends,” said Anton Hedlund, ’25. “It was even cooler that the staff got involved in the games.”
Allegheny staff were also distributing college-themed merchandise such as water bottles and stress relieving balls.
Carnival-style food was provided by Aramark. The menu included hot dogs, dippin’ dots, popcorn and funnel cakes.
Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities James Niblock, ’97, led a singing of the college’s alma mater to conclude the event.
Hedlund enjoyed the event and believes it to be an effective method of exposing community members to one another.
“It was a nice change to see some of my professors outside of the classroom and in a social setting,” Hedlund said. “I also got to speak to people from career counseling who you usually have to book appointments to meet with.”
Leading up to the event, a rumor around campus made many believe that there would be a major announcement at the all-campus gathering. This affected many attendees’ perceptions of the event.
“I thought that they were going to announce something big and special for the students,” Daniel Bekele, ’25, said. “I’m not sure what the big announcement was … maybe that (Cole) is permanently president.”
Cole said that the rumor of a big announcement was false and that the event came as a result of his open meetings with students and staff during his first week as president.
“The idea came up in different ways but it intersected at the same thing: that the campus needed a moment to reflect on (these) years,” Cole said. “We had a large planning committee that represented all the different departments of the college.”
Cole said that he saw the event as a way for the campus community to come together and reinforce their vision of what it means to be at Allegheny.
“This event was not about me stepping into the presidency, that happened with the announcement,” Cole said. “It was about providing the campus community to come together and recommit to our shared purpose of delivering education for our students and students to feel a part of this community.”
Apart from the confusion regarding the purpose of the event, Bekele believed the event to be successful.
“I think it was nice, regardless of other things, that everyone came together, especially on a day with beautiful weather,” Bekele said. “The only disappointing thing was that not enough students showed up even though it’s Friday and afternoon classes were canceled.”
Cole said that although he could not measure the turnout during the event, he believed that the event was successful in bringing together community members.
“I saw a lot of people when I was speaking on the podium and everyone seemed to be having a good time,” Cole said. “It’s not as simple as putting on an event and expecting everyone to attend, things take time and this event is a step in the right direction.”
The student involvement culture on campus has changed over the years and has significantly been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Cole.
“I’ve been at Allegheny for a long time and I have seen different ways that students get involved and make this campus their own,” Cole said. “Our enrollment numbers have suffered from the pandemic, and it’s not just us, it’s the whole world that has experienced a change. Our focus is on ensuring that students at Allegheny are enjoying their time.”
Cole said that students’ willingness to participate in events on campus is related to the student culture on campus. He added that cultural change occurs over time and is afforded by little changes accumulating into big changes.
Cole maintained that he is determined to listen to student needs and create accountability within the administration when it comes to them.