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SGA addresses pro-pepper spray protest and strategic planning


Kaitlin Carman / THE GATEPOST

By Kaitlin Carman 

News Editor 


SGA discussed protesters advocating for the right to carry pepper spray on campus, student feedback for strategic planning, and student organization funding at their meeting on Feb. 27.


Senator Caesar Matos began open forum discussing the pro-pepper spray protesters outside of the McCarthy Center earlier that day at approximately 2:30 p.m. 

 

Signs in hand, they were advocating for students to be able to carry pepper spray for self-defense on campus despite its current status as a prohibited item at the University. 

 

“I wanted to have a conversation about it. … There’s always a conversation about protection using pepper spray and about the effects that pepper spray might have on the perception of certain groups of people,” said Matos.

 

SGA Vice-President Raffi Elkhoury said he spoke to the protestors to confirm they are not FSU students or in any way affiliated with the University. He added they are part of a group that has been protesting at other college campuses.

 

He said they were also trying to get signatures for a petition for students to be able to carry pepper spray.

 

“It’s definitely an important conversation to be having because it is a safety concern if people are allowed to have it [and] it is a safety concern if they aren’t,” he said.


Elkhoury expressed concern about the path that goes between CASA (Center for Academic Success and Achievement) and in front of May Hall.


“There’s not a crosswalk there … and a lot of times, cars are blowing by there,” said Elkhoury. He said he would contact facilities to try to remediate the problem.

 

Senator Jacob Sargent added vehicles have also been going the wrong way on that one-way road. He said there needs to be “additional signage” to avoid more dangerous situations.

 

With the addition of new campus police officers, Elkhoury said there will be more foot and cruiser patrols in that area.

 

Officer Andrew Frimpong introduced himself to SGA as the new community resource officer on campus.


“I just wanted to introduce myself and say how much I’m enjoying myself here. … Thank you very much for inviting me to your meeting as well.


“My role is to be that liaison between students and the police department. … I just wanted to make myself known and also just work in conjunction with you guys and basically just start off with a new ball rolling,” said Frimpong.


Senators took turns introducing themselves to Frimpong stating their names and majors. Sargent reminded Frimpong of the chess game they recently played together.


Elkhoury turned the meeting to Ann McDonald, Chief of Staff General Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Trustees, who addressed the University’s strategic plan.

 

The University is required by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to have an active strategic plan, according to McDonald.

 

She said it is a “guiding document that takes into account all the goals of the college system in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the roles of the University that we set for us to follow for the next five years.

 

“Right now, we’re living off of sort of an extension of our last strategic plan … Our goal is to try to give a rough draft … to our trustees in May before they finish up their work, and then move it forward to the Department of Higher Education next fall,” added McDonald.


[ Editor’s Note: See “Board of Trustees discuss enrollment strategies” in Nov. 17 2023 issue of The Gatepost. ] 


Senator Jeremy McDonald, who is also a member of the All University Committee and strategic planning board, said the University wants student feedback to better shape the future of its strategic plan.


“We’re just trying to kind of get a feel for what the University students feel. … Instead of just having one-on-one conversations, these are things that we can bring back to the Strategic Planning Committee,” he said.


He added, “I can’t speak for everybody so to have more student experiences that I am able to give some insight on and reflect on is great. … Being able to read your experiences helps me to be a fuller, more participating member.”


In regard to what the University is doing well, Elkhoury said, “The new painting, the hammocks, fire pits, beautification - I think have been really effective.” He also highlighted a letter that focused on campus sustainability. 


He suggested uniting “those two goals of sustainability and beautification, whether that is having more native plants put on campus or revitalizing the garden - something like that makes the campus sustainability appear more beautiful and also in line with our goals of being a more sustainable, climate-friendly campus.”


Ann McDonald said sustainability is an important pillar of the strategic plan. “We want to meet our mission, and sustainability seems to be one of those things that jutted out for us,” she said.


Following the sustainability efforts, the University will be building a solar canopy in the Salem End Road Parking Lot which is expected to be completed before the start of the Fall semester.


“The ink is not yet dry on the contracts that we are working on right now. They’ll start as soon as you guys leave for summer break, and we told them they need to be out before you come back in August because we need that parking area. But that’s scheduled to happen now,” she said.


[ Editor’s Note: See “FSU named one of the most environmentally responsible universities” in Feb. 23 2024 issue of The Gatepost. ] 


Elkhoury said not only is it important for the University to connect classroom skills and experiences to work environments, but it should also be “connecting the classroom with students’ lives outside of the classroom or their work experience with extracurriculars - with opportunities that exist like those being promoted by professors.”


Although that might not be applicable on the strategic planning level, it is important to consider how faculty work to promote student engagement on campus, according to Elkhoury. 


Senator Tony Sims said the University could improve by having more flyers for events around campus where there is more “foot traffic,” particularly at the McCarthy Center.


He said, “We could install a poster board near the entrance of McCarthy … or we have a guide post board with a map of the campus - being able to put flyers there.”


Sims also suggested the University remove some resources as “the amount of websites that we have is cumbersome and even redundant at certain points, because … literally today I heard professors say that we do not need Starfish.


“We can just email professors and that’s how you can set up appointments … so there are resources that seem out of the way and cumbersome that can be removed and, at the very least, need significant revision,” said Sims.


According to Sims, Larned Beach could “be used in order to plant flowers and trees that could be used to help make the school look better and be good for the environment. 


“I think that it can certainly do that job much better than the art,” he said.


Caesar Matos said he wants to see the continuation of fostering relationships between students and faculty as well as employers as it provides experiences and employment opportunities for students, including himself.


“I would love to see [that] same enthusiasm from faculty for opportunities that exist outside of campus as well … [and] campus networking,” said Matos.


Jacob Sargent was concerned about food prices on campus. He said it is “incredibly important to address the pricing of food - as clearly, it’s becoming an issue for many students on campus.”


“I hear consistently on almost a daily basis of friends having to ration their guest swipes for other students so they can get a basic meal on campus,” said Sargent.


He added, “For anyone to do well, they need to be stable. And if you don’t have stability in food, how is someone going to do well in their academics?”

 

SGA unanimously passed a motion to approve the Veterans’ Association’s funding request for $700 to host a video gaming event, hosted by Frost Call, to connect Veteran students and the campus. 


The Cosplay Club was allocated $80.10 for their upcoming fundraiser. It was passed unanimously.


New Salvation was allocated $800 by a unanimous vote for a Worship Night event. Both of the singers will cost $100 each. Additionally, $400 was allocated for a guest minister and $200 for an instrumentalist. 

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