Cabrera addresses students' concerns in recent AMA

President Cabrera hosted an AMA on the George Mason University sub-reddit (photo courtesy of the Mason sub-reddit).
President Cabrera hosted an AMA on the George Mason University sub-reddit (photo courtesy of the Mason sub-reddit).

Among recent efforts to engage students with the GMU faculty, the George Mason University sub-reddit featured an AMA on Friday, April 19 hosted by President Ángel Cabrera. In the session, Cabrera addressed over 30  questions from Mason’s cyber-community concerning his plans for the university.

Over the past year, the Mason sub-reddit has hosted several AMAs, or “ask me anythings,” where someone with a unique profession or experience can answer questions from the community. Previous Mason AMAs included the Mason Card Office, the Parking & Transportation Office and most recently the Braddock District Supervisor, John Cook. However, with 150 comments during the hour long session, Cabrera’s AMA is the sub-reddit’s largest.

One of the more serious questions was raised by user “quincy_j_clomo” and concerned the Koch brothers’ relationship with Mason. The brothers famously use the finances of Koch Industries to fund politically conservative campaigns. The Koch Brothers donated over $30  million  to Mason’s new Mercatus Center, a research center dedicated to reconciling academic research with public policy.

“We’re fortunate to have many donors who believe in what we do and support our work with their own money,” Cabrera said. “All our donors respect our academic freedom and understand they can’t influence what we do! If they ever threatened our academic freedom, we wouldn’t take their money.”

Other topics in the AMA ranged from concerns about the future of Mason to the challenges of creating a football team. Some questions took on a more cordial tone.

“How difficult was it to lose the Masters in a playoff?” asked user “Bigmouthstrikesback,” jokingly referring to the Argentinian professional golfer who shares Cabrera’s name.

“It sucked,” Cabrera responded succinctly.

There were other questions Cabrera was unable to answer, like whether Sodexo would remain Mason’s food services provider in 2013. The top comment, from user “talkstowalls87” asked Cabrera about his opinion on adjunct faculty staff, or professors who do not work full time at Mason. 

“They (the adjunct faculty) expand our capabilities and they bring our education closer to the world of professional practice,” Cabrera said.  “We need to work to make their experience at Mason as positive as possible.”

Many of the other users raised concerns over the direction Mason is headed in the years to come. With expansion around the Fairfax campus, some commuters and students at the Arlington and Prince William campuses are worried they’re being left behind with a shifting focus on residential students on the Fairfax Campus. In his answer, Cabrera attempted to address these concerns as well as questions regarding the future integration of online education.

“The commuter/residential distinction doesn’t capture what we’re about or what a modern university will be about,” Cabrera said. “We serve residential students and working professionals; career starters and career switchers… some live on campus, some commute, some take classes online. We’re a comprehensive research university, committed to finding ways to serve people’s needs, whatever those are.”

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