By Johan Perez
Students expressed concern about a lack of communication from the administration about important matters as well as the level of responsiveness and effectiveness of Student Services during open forum at SGA’s Nov. 8 meeting.
Lorretta Holloway, vice president of Academic Enhancement, was invited to the meeting as part of an effort by her department to discuss with student groups concerns about “roadblocks” students face.
She said the path of a new student from the start of their college career to the finish is not as ideal as it’s usually projected. “We all know that’s not necessarily what happens.”
Holloway said speaking with students directly is important. “Sometimes, other people want to give you help, and they decide what you need as opposed to asking you what you need,” she said.
She said she has already attended several student group meetings, with more scheduled in the near future. “If you’re in a club, and you think your members have a lot to say, I’m willing to try to figure out a time to come meet and talk.”
Student Trustee McKenzie Ward said she was concerned there is no ADA commissioner at FSU. “When I was walking into the Athletic Center today, the doors that open for the handicap button were locked,” she said.
President Dara Barros said students taking a leave of absence without following official protocol have a rough time in the readmission process, “especially [first-generation students] who don’t have parents to tell them how to take it the correct way.”
Evelyn Campbell, outreach and events coordinator, said a majority of first-year students she assists at CASA often fall behind in their assignments, which lowers their morale.
She said the RAMS 101 courses should be tailored more toward “keeping up with work” and “how to persevere if you’ve fallen behind.”
Barros also said the Student Services Center is not “student focused or student ready.”
She said Student Accounts and Financial Aid should communicate more effectively. “There’s times where I get an email saying I have a hold on my account, then two hours later, ‘Sorry, we lied. Financial Aid just hasn’t posted your aid yet.’”
Barros added, “If I wasn’t a student leader and didn’t know how to advocate for myself, I wouldn’t have gone to the Financial Aid Office five minutes after I got the email.”
She recommended a more in-depth financial aid session during orientation to teach new students to learn how to read their financial aid packets, saying currently, “they really just speed through it.”
Campbell agreed, saying first-generation students need more information sessions for financial aid. “It is such a difficult task to come to college when your parents haven’t,” she said.
She added family information sessions could help parents of first-generation students as well. “My parents were supportive of me going to college, but they had no idea what was happening. We had to blindly figure it out ourselves.”
Senator Dillon Riley said the COVID-19 pandemic “shook up how universities work.”
He added even as a second-generation student, he still had issues in the registration process. “My mom was trying to help me out and she had no idea what was going on, either.
“She’s trying to learn at the same time. It’s new for everybody,” he said.
Senator Austin Van Lingen said the staff of the Student Services Center “seems like they had an attitude problem.”
He said, “Whoever you’re having a conversation with, especially in regard to your bill or financial aid, [should] definitely be speaking in a nicer manner with students.”
Barros said, “It’s as if they act like we should already know accounting and how to read our bill.”
Sam Houle, SATF treasurer, said his success as a student has “kind of been in spite of the advising process rather than because of it.”
He added in his first advising meeting as a freshman, his advisor told him to drop his minor because he “didn’t understand how higher education works.” He said he trusted her and did so, only to now not be a licensed educator after graduation even though that was originally his plan.
“I had no idea what the ramifications of that decision were,” Houle said.
Ward said the incident of an individual brandishing a fake gun while driving through campus last week was never communicated to students.
“We basically found out about it through a chain of everyone telling everyone,” she said. “I personally wouldn’t want to come to a campus where it’s not communicated to me.”
Holloway added she had not heard about this incident until Ward raised it at the meeting.
Campbell said communication is an issue for faculty and staff as well. She said faculty and staff told her, “Yeah, I only found out because of The Gatepost.
“It makes us feel like we're forgotten sometimes,” she said.
Campbell added, “When you’re sitting in the SGA office and I get a text saying they think there’s someone with a gun on campus, and then I have to walk through campus terrified because campus police haven't told us. … When it comes to communications, when we’re always the last ones to know, it makes us feel less and less valued each time.”
Holloway confirmed an emergency alert test that was sent to student emails during the fake gun incident was already planned and unrelated.
Vice President Raffi Elkhoury said the lack of research opportunities and sufficient technology to perform experiments within the STEM majors makes it difficult for students to learn skills that will be used in future employment.
“If you want to go into working in a lab, you want to have practice with certain lab equipment,” he said. “If the school doesn’t have that, that can definitely turn students away or hamper their progress.”
Holloway thanked the SGA members for their feedback.
Following up on the Oct. 26 meeting, Barros said she received a document from Dean of Students Meg Nowak Borrego detailing each issue addressed in the Oct. 11 Administrators’ Forum, the proposed solution for each issue that was discussed in follow-up meetings, and the administrator assigned to each one.
The issues addressed include a change of modality in classes, broken equipment and weights missing in the Athletic Center, ticketing in the parking lots, and a request to notify the community through email of major decisions.
The SGA members said goodbye to Sara Gallegos, executive director of Student Experience and Careers and SGA advisor, as this was her last meeting as SGA advisor. The new SGA advisor will be Leah Mudd, assistant director of student experience and orientation
Ward said Tuesday Nov. 15 is the Campus Safety Walk at 6 p.m. at the McCarthy patio.
Ward also said the next Board of Trustees meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Alumni Room and on Zoom.
She said she is working on organizing a student open forum with the Board of Trustees as an informal event to “make sure the Board of Trustees get to know us as students and get to know what the student experience is like.”
The “U-Rock” award was presented to Ben “Bench” Hurney by Riley. He said Bench was selfless and gave his time to others even when he didn’t need to.
[Editor’s Note: McKenzie Ward is Opinions Editor for The Gatepost]