The Highs and Lows of SGA’s Annual Town Hall Meeting
BY RYAN HATHAWAY // APRIL 10, 2017 //
The Student Government Association teamed up with Curry administrators Wednesday afternoon to host the annual “Town Hall” in the Student Center’s Large Meeting Room.
The forum featured Vice-President of Student Affairs Maryellen Kiley, Vice President of Institutional Planning Sue Pennini, Provost David Szczerbacki, Director of Buildings and Grounds Bob O’Connell and Student Body President Zoe Staude. Also in attendance were various SGA representatives, faculty, staff, and at least a dozen different students who had come to voice concerns.
“The more we come together to create a shared understanding and work together to create solutions, the greater our success will be,” said Dean Pennini.
As students filed in and dropped anonymous questions they had written on slips of paper in a receptacle, the meeting kicked off with a presentation from Dean Pennini and Mr. O’Connell.
The first matter on the agenda was the Sciences and Integrated Learning Commons Building: a facility that will nestle between and connect the current Science Building with the Levin Library/AAPC.
Dean Pennini spoke to the need to update and improve upon the existing science labs with the hope of providing new resources to students majoring in Nursing, Biology, Chemistry, and the forthcoming Biochemistry.
It would also supply students that are studying Criminal Justice with forensics equipment. Mr. O’Connell added that the project would also address any outstanding issues of zoning compliance and accessibility issues within the current facilities.
Also within the building will be a free-study area where students of various disciplines can work independently or collaborate with one another. Dean Pennini likened the area to a social space not unlike the Student Center, but with an emphasis on academic pursuits. Both administrators noted the plans were not yet final.
A new athletics field house is also in the works, with the intent of adding locker rooms with personal, permanent lockers to athletes, new weight and strength-training facilities, and a public restroom for people attending games.
One student asked if there were plans to build a track and Mr. O’Connell stated that there were none at this time. He also added that there were no plans for the existing Miller Field House at this point in time.
After battling a faulty mic and electing to stand and address his audience, Provost Szczerbacki next took over, and spoke to the College’s continued commitments to quality assurance within degree programs.
He mentioned a new system of “degree maps,” with a function similar to the CAPP Degree Audit system currently available via the portal. Also on his agenda was expanding the school’s study abroad program, and the hiring of 15 new faculty members for the fall semester.
He concluded by saying the College hopes to expand upon its current offering of programs with 40 new or substantially redesigned programs by the 2018-19 school year.
Dean Kiley and Student Body President Staude each spoke to a number of programs designed to improve the student experience both inside and outside the classroom, such as the Bias Response Team that was formed after a spike in reports of bias-related incidents.
Curry student Mia Gomez voiced her concern that those issues had not yet been alleviated, and said she doesn’t believe the College is taking an active enough approach in quelling the problem. Her advocacy for the standardization of safe spaces at Curry drew snaps of approval from the gathered students.
“If our voices are not heard we will do more about it until we are heard and changes are made,” she said after the meeting.
Gomez also bemoaned a lack of diversity and acceptance on the Curry campus to fervent snaps from the assembled crowd, citing the vandalism incident in Mayflower in which an emblem of hatred was displayed.
The administrators were just as fervent in voicing the commitment to expunging these problems.
The panel was very amenable to answering each question raised by students at the meeting, even if – as Provost Szczerbacki pointed out – they couldn’t always give the students what they were looking for.
Dean Kiley plans to have lunch with Gomez this week to talk about issues of diversity and Dean Pennini lingered after the meeting to speak to students one-on-one.
Dean Pennini said that to hear students retell harrowing experiences at the College is heart-breaking for her, particular when students feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
“I take to heart the questions and concerns that were raised during the Town Hall,” she said.
“The open dialogue between students, faculty, and staff provided us all with the range of perspectives necessary to continue our work together, striving to be the diverse and inclusive academic and social community we intend to be.”
Following the assembly, Student Body President Staude commented that she wishes students would see SGA as more than just as a funding source for clubs.
“We are trying to make ourselves more present on this campus. We want our classmates to know who we are, we want out classmates to come to our meetings, we want them to voice their concerns, and we want their help in making a change to our campus.
Student Body President Staude noted that meetings are open to anyone and that the minutes for each meeting are public record; there is a copy of the previous weeks minutes on our bulletin board in front of the Campus Life suite on the second floor of the Student Center.
“I am only as good as the information my classmates give me. I want them to share their stories, I want to work with them to make a difference. I will do what I need to do in order to make sure that a student feels safe and comfortable on our campus.”
In addition, the elections for SGA e-board are April 14-16 (a student has to be in SGA for at least one semester in order to run for the E-board) and the voting for general election is April 28th-30. Every student gets to vote during both election sessions, for the e-board and for the general. Nomination packets for students to run can be found at the Information Desk at the Student Center and are due to the campus life office by April 21.
SGA meets every Wednesday from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. in the Large Meeting Room in the Student Center and are open to the public.
Student Body President Staude can also be contacted at email@example.com if students would like to make arrangements to meet or contact her with any concerns.
“I hope that more students will start coming to our meetings and reach out to me so that we can work together on the issues they want the college to improve on,” she said. “Without evidence or any support behind topics, not much change can happen.”