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Students voice concerns at Town Hall

Last night MVNU administrators and students gathered for a Town Hall meeting where student questions and concerns were addressed by those in a position to enact change.

Sitting on the panel were University President Dr. Henry Spaulding, Vice President of Student Life Joe Noonen, Dean of Students Aaron Quinn, Director of Campus Life Rochel Furniss and Student Body President Jay Zollars. The event was moderated by SGA Events Chairperson Jessica Wells.

Students submitted questions online and outside the SGA office for two weeks leading up to the event.

Administrators said they received too many questions to answer all of them during the 60-minute gathering. However, Furniss plans to continue the conversation via email.

“I read them all and I have an understanding about what your concerns are,” she said. “I want you to know that we care about each one.”

Furniss encouraged students to pay attention to emails from Student Life and Spiritual Life as they will continue to address the concerns submitted for the evening.

Noonen encouraged students to continue to reach out and respectfully share their ideas and concerns with those in leadership

“We want a culture of openness,” Noonen said as he closed the event.

The following questions were addressed at the Town Hall Meeting.

Q: Why does my tuition continue to go up but my scholarship money does not?

A: The cost of private education is the reason tuition increases. MVNU gives a set scholarship amount to incoming freshmen. That money is financed by the tuition increase of the upperclassmen. Dr. Spaulding explained that this equals out, as each class helps the classes after them. However, the University attempts to compensate for that by providing endowment scholarships to upperclassmen. Regardless, MVNU tuition is one of the lowest in private education, said Dr. Spaulding. For more information about the effect of tuition increases, see last semester’s article that breaks this down, here.

Q: Why can’t residential students own wax warmers? “We are all adults and should know how to use one correctly.”

A: “I wish we were all adults,” Quinn responded lightly. In the past, when they were permitted in the residential areas, the campus saw numerous instances of students dumping hot wax down the sink after using them. The wax then hardened and clogged the sinks. This caused major plumbing issues and huge costs to the University.

Q: Why don’t we have signs at each speed bump so they are easy to spot in the dark?

A: There is a caution sign at the entrance of campus. However, the administration is willing to look into putting a sign at each individual speed bump to caution night drivers.

Q: The speed bumps are rough on student vehicles and some students have had to patch up the bottom of their cars because of damage caused by speed bumps, especially the one in front of Galloway. Can we fix this?

A: “We will get that puppy shaped in a way that is consistent with the others,” said Noonen. The panel agreed with his statement and will work to get the speed bump shortened.

Q: How can we make SGA more than a glorified party planning committee? How can we get “outside the Naz bubble” in regard to clubs and events?

A: The SGA team discussed its position and purpose on campus from week one, Zollars said. “We want to be better listeners and this event is an example of that,” he said. Zollars recognized that they do spend a great deal of time planning campus events but that is for the campus community. SGA is intentional about providing opportunities for students to come together as a community. “But we do, more importantly, care about how you want this campus to be shaped,” Zollars said. He mentioned that many of their efforts go unseen by the student body. For example, SGA is currently working with Gina Blanchard on lowering text book costs. They are also finding a way to ensure that a “required” textbook is in fact required. Students should expect to see a survey about these issues.

Zollars addressed ways to get “outside the Naz bubble” as well. There are also over 20 clubs on campus many of which reach out to other ministries and organizations. He encouraged students to get involved or start a new club that lines up with their passions.

Q: What happened to the 586? There is no food. We need a place to hang out that has convenient hours and good food.

A: Furniss responded with a question of her own: “What do you want?” Students attending the event were given an opportunity to give their opinions and “dream big” as Furniss said.

Immediate suggestions included Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks. Others mentioned inviting a private, smaller company to occupy the space rather than a franchise. Many students attending the Town Hall spoke up and asked for healthier options, food that was not dripping in grease or covered in gluten.

Regarding ambiance, students asked for a more welcoming, cozy environment that invites them to gather and spend time with one another. Suggestions included adding different tables and comfortable chairs, blocking off the area, displaying student artwork and utilizing the stage consistently. Noonen suggested making this a student-run operation with staff oversight, offering internships to business, marketing, graphic design majors and more. Those attending the event reacted positively to this suggestion

Find more information about this decision, here.

Q: Why do students have to turn in schedules to their RA?

A: This request is for emergency situations and student protection, Quinn said. It gives residential life a way to locate the student if a campus or home emergency occurs. The schedules will not be something that residential directors or assistants memorize. The intent is not a “big brother thing,” but is meant to be a resource that allows RAs to get to know their residents, he said. It also serves as a way to protect the University. There have been instances where students signed up for housing and paid for it with federal funding but never enrolled in classes. This is dishonest. For more information about the new policy, click here.

Q: Why does homecoming court exist? It is just a popularity contest from high school.

A: The same question came up last year, said Zollars, “and we adjusted.” Homecoming court is now more meaningful and the goal is to encourage and acknowledge those on court for their contribution to the MVNU community. Zollars encouraged students to help SGA shape homecoming court into what they want it to be. He asked those attending to think about how to improve the event, posing multiple questions. If we don’t do this then what can we do? Do we get rid of it or do we replace it? How do we incorporate this into homecoming weekend?

Q: Why has campus safety “gone rogue,” telling us we can’t be in specific places, for example, outside Ariel Arena at 9 p.m.?

A: Anyone who told you that was wrong, Quinn said. Campus Safety has moved to a community policing model which requires officers to be visible around campus. “We don’t want you to assume the worst when you see an officer,” Quinn said. Campus Safety hopes that MVNU will become a culture where officers walking through the cafeteria and down sidewalks is normal and comforting to the student body. Interaction with officers should be positive. Students who have negative interactions with the officers are encouraged to speak to Quinn or one of the sergeants. Quinn said that MVNU officers have two options: They can “treat you [the students] with respect or find other employment.” For the complete breakdown of the new policy, click here.

Q: Why do dorms not have central air?

A: “Because they were never installed,” Noonen said. Administrators looked into this over the summer to determine the cost of installing it. They discovered that the cost was so significant it would require a tuition increase for current students and did not want to impose an added amount. The University did change its policy regarding air conditioners. For more information, check out our article here.

Q: Why are student not allowed in opposite sex bedrooms?

A: Administration is looking at revising the current hours and policies. However, it will not be “free for all,” Quinn said. As more freedom is given, the “violation and discipline accelerates,” he added.

Q: Why aren’t tiered meal plans offered to students, based on the number of meals a student actually eats in the cafeteria?

A: Even though that sounds simple it’s an extremely complex formula, Noonen said. Students used to be able to select a meal plan that fits their schedule but it was not cheaper for the University or the students. “We are attempting to keep a finger on the changes,” Noonen said. He recognized that there are programs and schedules that prevent students from using the meals they pay for. The University is intentionally looking into how to offer options to the student body while keep the cost as low as possible.

Q: Multiple questions related to students’ dissatisfaction with the cafeteria.

A: Fill out the survey, said the panel. Students should be polite but honest with Pioneer Catering. These surveys are conducted to improve the current system. But, without respectful feedback and ideas, nothing will change. For a specific idea or request, contact Food Services Director Rob Stiltner or Assistant Director Moriah Secrest. Students can also get involved in the on-campus food committee. The committee meets with Stiltner to give opinions and feedback. The committee was responsible for introducing the Panini press to campus.

Q: Why do we have such a long break? Why isn’t there a May term option or an on-campus summer semester?

A: The long summer break is meant to be a time for students to get into the job market, acquire internships, make money and prepare for the upcoming year. The University has considered having three semesters, said Spaulding. However, when this was offered in University history, attendance was significantly low. MVNU does offer online summer classes for those hoping to get ahead. Administrators are currently working on a program that would allow students to continue throughout the summer and finish school in three, possibly even two, years.

Q: There is a rumor that MVNU is building a Redwood for females. Is that true?

A: No, there will not be a new building. However, next year Redwood will be co-ed. There will be one floor for male students and one floor for female students. “That’s the way it should be,” Quinn said. The idea has been approved by the Senior Leadership Team.

Q: When will we add a student legislative body to combat our student executive branch that simply plans parties?

A: There is not a plan to add such a team, Furniss said. “I may not have done a good job talking about what SGA actually does,” she added. Last year the team worked with James Smith and found $20,000 more in scholarships to be distributed to upperclassmen. “There are things that we do that are not seen. You only see the parties,” she said. Furniss recognized that SGA may need to be more intentional about balancing their responsibilities. Moving forward, Furniss and SGA will be more vocal about what they are working on and defining their role within the student body.

Q: Why do the fitness rooms have specific hours? Why can’t they be open all day and left unattended?

A: Looking back through the history of this dilemma, the University has staffed the fitness rooms throughout the week and weekends only to have no one use it. Administrators are trying to be good stewards of the budget. The rooms are not left unattended because accidents happen. It is for the students’ safety. The purpose is to have someone else in the room, especially the weight room. Administration is willing to reevaluate the hours.

Q: Not all of the treadmills in the cardio rooms work. Can we get them fixed?

A: Yes. MVNU formerly had a maintenance contract with an “unnamed company,” Noonen said. Now, maintenance and operation of fitness equipment has been transitioned to internal management. “Be patient with us as we figure out a new system. We shifted the maintenance to people who actually care that it is broken,” Noonen said.

Q: How do we blow up the exercise balls that are deflated?

A: This goes with the previous question. Because of the transition of responsibilities, MVNU is working to create a functional system that works for students and staff.

Q: Why don’t we have more fitness programs like zumba, yoga and cycling?

A: We do have a cycling club and all students are welcome to join, Furniss said. Fitness classes are also welcome, but the University needs someone to lead them. Furniss is currently talking to a staff member and former student about leading zumba. But, right now, “I don’t have a student who is coming to me saying, ‘I want to lead zumba or yoga,’” she said.

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