By Leighah Beausoleil
The lack of communication between students and administrators and concerns regarding staffing were discussed during SGA’s Administrators’ Forum March 8 via Zoom.
SGA President McKenzie Ward said students are concerned with the assumption that they “understand every working aspect of higher education.”
Ward said students wish administrators, faculty, and staff could “reexamine” how issues and changes of higher education are discussed because it tends to be jargon heavy.
She added students spoke to her regarding the lack of communication and how they were “frustrated” when the new president was chosen, explaining an email was never sent to students. Rather, they found out through the University’s Instagram.
Ward said students should be able to feel heard on campus because “the main point of a university is the students.”
Ann McDonald, chief of staff and general counsel, said typically, when an email is meant to be sent out to the campus community, she will send it out to the faculty and staff and copy Lorretta Holloway, vice president of Enrollment and Student Development, because she does not have the ability to send out communications to students herself. Holloway will then send the email to students.
McDonald added she believed an email was sent out about the president shortly after Dec. 15 when the decision was made, and said students may have missed it because they were leaving campus for winter break.
Ward said she and other students did not have an email in their Outlooks sent on behalf of Kevin Foley, chair of the Board of Trustees.
McDonald responded, “If it was a miss, it was an error on our part, but it certainly wasn’t intentional because we certainly tried to follow that system.”
Holloway said the difficulty in situations such as the presidential search is that some people find out about the decision beforehand because of the open forums and meetings.
She added, “If people find out from a news source before they’re finding out from the University, we recognize that it’s fairly problematic because then it looks like the University isn’t doing its job when we’re sort of following the rules that other entities don’t have to be held accountable to.”
Holloway agreed a lot of higher education topics are discussed using terminology students, and even other administrators, may not be familiar with and that it is something her o<ce is taking into consideration.
[Editor’s Note: Due to the webinar format of the meeting, students were able to submit questions anonymously.]
Multiple students shared concerns during the meeting pertaining to issues with ID access, course registration, laundry, and Wi-Fi.
Largely, the response from administrators was to make sure students are communicating those concerns through the related channels in order to ensure the necessary departments are aware of them.
One attendee said, “A student I know was unable to eat for three days because their ID was not working and every time they went to the office to get it fixed, they told them that the problem was ‘not on their end’ and to talk to the dining hall, but Dining Services continued to send them back to the ID Office.”
They added problems with ID acces have occurred in locations such as the residence halls and the Game Room.
Chief of University Police John Santoro and Patricia Whitney, assistant vice president of Facilities and Capital Planning, said they have not heard about ID issues from students.
Santoro said many of the problems with ID access were addressed when the system was upgraded last year, adding when students do run into problems, they can email the ID Office, University Police Department, or Facilities.
Aretha Phillips, director of Dining Services, said as long as a student has a meal plan, they should always have the ability to enter the Dining Commons for a meal regardless of ID access issues. She added if a similar situation arises, the student just has to ask to speak with a supervisor or manager.
One attendee said, “Students were required to sign a contract in order to sign up for classes. We were not given any guidance on what it was and still have not received any information on it. Could you explain what it was and why it was necessary?”
Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said the contract is just a new feature aimed at reminding students that when they register for classes, they have an “obligation” to pay for them.
He said students had the opportunity to read the contract when they signed it.
An attendee asked, “Why do some students have to pay for classes before registering for classes? ... I had a couple friends who were told in order to register for this semester, they had to pay their bill first. This forced them to register late and have to catch up. Is this because of the new contract?”
Hamel said this is not related to the contract and that, most likely, the student had an outstanding balance or was on academic probation, which placed a hold on their account.
He added if students run into trouble registering, they should contact Student Accounts.
Emily Rosenberg, SGA outreach and events coordinator, said, “It was announced in a recent email from Dr. Holloway that there would be a new parking enforcement officer hired by campus police soon. Given the amount of complaints students have about parking, why do you think giving students more tickets will ease their frustration with the parking situation on campus when there, rather, needs to be a solution that will make parking more easily accessible?”
Holloway responded that filling this new position is not to ease frustrations, but to ensure everyone is parked in their assigned spots. The additional position will reduce the amount of time University Police officers regulate parking because it is not a “good use” of resources given that the department is already understaffed.
Santoro said those who have parking concerns can attend the Parking Open Forum held March 25 from noon to 1 p.m. that is open to all community members.
Dara Barros, SGA diversity and inclusion officer, asked for an update on the University Police
Department’s policy review, specifically in regard to anti-racism.
Santoro said the department is working to release a document soon detailing the five topics they plan to address.
Holloway said the topics include plans for improving the perception of police, building trust university-wide, getting to know officers outside of calls, hosting more listening sessions between the department
and community members, and increasing the transparency of how they operate.
She added the department would like to have liaisons for the different affinity groups, but that is made difficult due to understaffing. Currently, Santoro is the liaison for Pride Alliance and is working to become one for Black Student Union.
Holloway said the department is working to hire a new deputy chief of police, and “a lot of the
assessment of anti-racism work as well as the racially just policing work has been designated in the job description.”
Santoro said the department has been making progress on “hiring officers to better represent the University’s population. But in all the police fields – not just in our department, not only in the City of Framingham ... it has been very difficult to hire police officers in general at this time, but we’re doing our best to do that.”
Emma Sullivan, SGA vice president, asked for an update on the investigation into the white supremacy- related decals found on campus last semester.
Santoro said he could not say much on the topic as it is an ongoing investigation, but “our detective has been doing a great job ... and has turned over a lot of things. He’s working with an inter-jurisdictional working group made of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.”
He said FSU was not the only location targeted last year, adding, “24 communities and/or colleges and universities in Massachusetts alone” have experienced this.
“We have some really, really great leads,” Santoro said. “I’d love to be able to tell you all about it, but we can’t at this time.
“Day to day, there’s so much that’s going on with data mining, analysis, intelligence sharing, and identification,” he added. The detective is “really committed and spending most of his time on this investigation.”
[Editor’s Note: McKenzie Ward is Opinions Editor for The Gatepost. Emily Rosenberg is an Arts and Features Editor for The Gatepost.]