Student concerns addressed during Administrators’ Forum
By Caroline Gordon, Lydia Staber
Students raised concerns about Wi-Fi, course registration, and current COVID-19 protocols during SGA’s Administrators’ Forum hosted via Zoom Oct. 26.
President F. Javier Cevallos said the searches to hire a Vice President of Academic A2airs and a Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE) are delayed while the search for a new president is underway.
Cevallos added the presidential search will conclude around the middle of December.
“Vice president positions work very closely with the president. So, it only makes sense for me to wait until that person is appointed. They will have quite a bit of say in who the next two vice presidents are going to be,” he said.
Cevallos said the two new vice presidents will be appointed between February and April of the Spring semester.
[Editor’s note: see “Vice President Cabello leaves FSU” in the Sept. 17 issue of The Gatepost for [more details.]
Patrick Laughran, chief information officer, addressed the quality of the Wi-Fi on campus.
He said he wanted to take the opportunity to educate students about how Wi-Fi operates. There are three components to the network on campus: the connection to the internet, a campus-wide connection to all of the facilities – or “the backbone of our campus network” – and the wireless infrastructure the community uses.
According to Laughran, during Fiscal Year 2020-21, FSU spent $660,000 on network upgrades, replacements, expansion and ongoing maintenance and support.
“Naturally, this is a critical piece of infrastructure that we continue to invest in. It’s a utility, like electricity or water,” he said.
He said a portion of the money was used to increase Wi-Fi coverage outside because of COVID-19, which allowed people the option to spend time outside on their devices.
As part of capacity planning, he said the IT service department listens to feedback from the community, such as their level of satisfaction with the wireless network, how much the Wi-Fi is used, number of devices connected, and the extent to which they value the Wi-Fi’s performance.
He said the number of reported concerns with the Wi-Fi have decreased. Halfway through Fall 2019, there were 100 incidents reported. Halfway through Fall 2021, there have been 65 incidents.
Laughran added requests for assistance have decreased. There were over 600 requests during the first half of the fall 2019 semester. This year, there have been 184 during the same time frame.
He attributed the decrease in requests to changes implemented, such as a self-service portal. Through the portal, students are able to get information and submit requests for assistance with internet connection and connecting gaming consoles and household appliances.
Laughran said the IT department wants to replace some of the technology, such as wireless access points.
He said currently, there are “wireless access points for three to four rooms within a residence hall.”
Laughran said this system “creates conflicts as the network is a shared service.” Depending upon what someone is using it for, that can affect the “bandwidth” available to someone next door.
He added the IT Department is implementing more wireless access points with smaller radii.
Laughran noted this system will be a better way to implement “dedicated bandwidth” for each room.
He said West Hall is the next residence hall due for a technological upgrade. Laughran said the IT department is “experimenting” with new devices in West Hall for Spring 2022.
Ellen Zimmerman, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, discussed the availability of study spaces – particularly during the night – and the use of Canvas.
She said due to staffing issues, the library has not been able to stay open as late as it typically does. In order for the library to remain open later at night, there must be one staff member and one student worker present the entire time.
Zimmerman added Millie González, interim library dean, is planning to add an additional staff member.
She said once the additional staff member is hired, which should be within a month or so, the library will be able to stay open until 11 p.m. In the meantime, González has discussed schedule changes with the library staff and student workers that will allow for the library to stay open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
Zimmerman said this new schedule will “hopefully” start this Sunday.
“In terms of burning the midnight oil and later – that’s another matter,” she said.
Zimmerman noted the library can only be open as late as it can be staffed. She said González can discuss other late-night study options with students.
Zimmerman also addressed a concern about the University’s new learning management system, Canvas.
Zimmerman noted most faculty and students were introduced to Canvas for the first time this Fall.
“Whenever you switch to a new platform, it’s a learning process for both the students and the faculty. For the faculty, it’s not just learning how to access stuff on it – it’s actually learning all the capabilities it has. It’s a pretty big learning process,” she said.
Zimmerman added, “The faculty that I’ve heard from really like Canvas. They are really pleased with it as an instrument for teaching and learning. They are really trying to become proficient at all the different aspects of it.”
[Editor’s note: see “University assesses transition to Canvas” in the Oct. 22 issue of The Gatepost for more details.]
McKenzie Ward, SGA President, discussed the change in the course registration section of
Ward said she had demonstrated how to navigate course registration to her freshman honors students during her peer mentor session, only to have the system change a few days later.
Zimmerman replied, “I completely agree with you, McKenzie. That needed to be better communicated. The college deans and I have a meeting on Thursday. We will talk about what those changes are to make sure an explanation gets out now, even though it’s a little late, and to make sure that those communications going forward come out plenty in advance.”
John Santoro, interim police chief, discussed the accidents that have occured on Route 9.
He noted Route 9 is a state highway outside of campus.
Santoro said, “Route 9 is under the care, custody, and control, technically of the state of Massachusetts, but the city of Framingham Police Department takes care of handling traffic enforcement issues, speeding complaints, and accidents.”
He added the roads running through campus, such as State Street and Maynard Road, are monitored by the City of Framingham.
He said recently, there have been complaints about speeding vehicles on Church Street, which is a concern the two police departments share.
Santaro also discussed an incident of racist decals found on campus last March.
He said both public and private institutions in the area and nationwide have been targeted by the same group that spreads its propaganda through stickers.
He stated the suspects who targeted Framingham State were never caught due to the decals being placed at night and their identities being disguised by face masks and hats.
Dale Hamel, executive vice president, addressed a student’s question about parking lots available on campus for commuters.
“We did a count of all the parking spaces to see where we could potentially make some adjustments,” he said.
“We were never at a point where we were out of commuter spaces.”
Hamel said Maple lot, although the “third choice of commuter students,” always has spots open.
“I’m assuming the question is in regard to, ‘Why isn’t there enough closer to campus?’ But, we’ve got three lots, and one’s farther away than the other two,” he added.
Ilene Hofrenning, director of the Health Center, discussed current COVID-19 quarantine protocols.
She said if someone is vaccinated, there is no requirement for quarantine, even if someone they are in close contact with tests positive.
Hofrenning said Health Center sta2 reach out to those in contact with an infected person to determine if they have any symptoms. She said they are asked to monitor their symptoms for two weeks. Then, they must be tested if they show any symptoms.
She added the CDC recommends those in contact with an infected person be tested every five to seven days – even if they are asymptomatic.
Hofrenning said the health center staff does not require anybody who is vaccinated and exposed to quarantine. Only those who are unvaccinated and exposed to COVID-19 must quarantine.
However, she said if someone tests positive for COVID-19, they must isolate for 10 days.
“We haven’t seen any evidence of classroom transmission. We have seen evidence of roommate and suitemate transmission, but not a whole lot. We are starting random-sampling testing of people who are vaccinated just to see if there is asymptomatic infection. We want to have a handle on that if there is,” she said.
A student asked about the asbestos in May Hall and the construction the building is undergoing.
Patricia Whitney, assistant vice president of Facilities and Capital Planning, said whenever work is done that “disturbs something,” such as pulling up carpet or tearing down walls, testing is always done.
She said there have been a couple of cases where flooring was replaced in classrooms on the second floor. “We did have an abatement contractor come in and, within the accordance of all the regulations, remove the asbestos so we could provide new carpet.
“None of the air sampling for asbestos has posed any issue,” she added.
Whitney said repairs were made to May Hall’s roof, skylights, and gutters. Bricks were also repointed.
She added, the only indoor work that occurred was in one faculty member’s office where there was damage.
[Editor’s note: see “Renovations underway at May Hall” in the Oct. 22 issue of The Gatepost for more details.]
President Ward wrapped up the forum by thanking the administrators.
“We really appreciate you taking the time, especially after a long day at work, to come and answer our questions and concerns. I want to thank the students as well. Being advocates for ourselves is the number one thing we can do to assure our University’s success.”
After the event, Ward said, “Administrators’ Forum is one of the most important events we hold as SGA. This event gives us the chance to address any concerns or ask questions we may have. While I enjoy the convenience of Zoom, I think having it in person next semester will allow us to ask follow-up questions to the administrators and will make the forum flow better.”
[Editor’s Note: McKenzie Ward is Opinions Editor for The Gatepost. News Editors Ashlyn Kelly
and Haley Hadge contributed to this article.]