President Haas holds virtual office hours

Courtesy Photo /
President Thomas Haas

Courtesy Photo / President Thomas Haas

Emanuel Johnson

When Grand Valley State University President Thomas J. Haas sat down in the lower level of the Zumberge Library Tuesday to hold his virtual office hours, he said he had already expected to see questions about whether or not classes would run Wednesday in light of the pending snow storm that barreled toward West Michigan.

He didn’t have to wait long — the very first question he answered read, “Will classes be held tonight as usual?”

This was one of several questions Haas answered during the hour-and-a-half long session. Almost 180 students, faculty and staff at GVSU logged on to ask 70 questions, 47 of which the president was able to answer.

Ben Rapin, a Web manager in GVSU Institutional Marketing, monitored statistics during the session and said it was one of the most active to date.

“We got probably 50 more people than normal,” he said. “They continually increase in numbers – we keep seeing them go up every semester.”

As for the questions themselves, they varied in topic. Some questioned what the university would do with the results of the myGVSU survey, which became active on the same day, and others wanted to know how Haas felt about Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s new appointees to the GVSU Board of Trustees.

While there were some questions that were of a more personal nature, Haas said he didn’t come across any questions that surprised him or brought up any issues of which he was unaware.

“There were a good number of questions from the nontraditional students,” he said. “We did anticipate the questions about the snowstorm, but there wasn’t anything that was really extraordinary or difficult. We create an atmosphere to communicate with the president, and we’re really pleased with the results of this.”

To help answer some of the more personal questions, Haas had a team of 11 advisers from across GVSU help conduct the office hours. These advisers included Jarrett Martus, the president of the Student Senate; Neil Rogness, a Statistics professor; Jeanne Arnold, the vice president of Inclusion and Equity; Betsey Meier, a graduate assistant in Inclusion and Equity; Rachel Siglow, Haas’ assistant; Mary Eilleen Lyon, the assistant vice president of News and Information; Jeff Musser, the assistant vice president of University Budgets; John Jellema, an associate vice president of the Provost Office; Tom Butcher, university council; Dan Slaughter, a Web developer in Institutional Marketing; and Rapin.

Haas asked for everyone’s input before he submitted an answer to a question. He said he keeps these advisers to deliver the most accurate information to students during his sessions.

Along with personal questions were also repeat questions. Some students questioned whether or not GVSU would make efforts to make parking easier on the Allendale Campus while others wanted to know more about GVSU’s weather policy.

Haas said although such questions have come up in past sessions, it is still important to answer them for today’s students and faculty.

“We’ve done this now for five years, and sometimes there’s questions that come up each time,” he said. “But we take the time to answer them even if they were answered in previous sessions. This is a new session with new students and new faculty, and so we answer them again.”

Although he could not answer all 70 questions within the allotted time, Haas said he will make efforts to address student concerns offline.

“We hold these virtual office hours with the attempt to create better access to a university that has grown with multiple locations,” he said. “This provides an opportunity to answer questions of a personal nature and very important issues that the students and faculty have and want to hear from me about, and it provides me the opportunity to respond in real time.”

To view a full transcript of the president’s chat with students and faculty, go to, sign in with your network id and click “Logs.”

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