Updated: Apr 26
By Naidelly Coelho Asst. News Editor
Students expressed concerns about race-related issues on campus, policing, the registrar's office and commencement at the Administrators’ Forum on March 28.
Student Trustee McKenzie Ward said coming to open forums is a great opportunity to express concerns and problems to administrators.
Dara Barros, SGA president, said women’s safety has been an issue lately and she believes campus police can be doing more.
“I think police officers should walk around on campus on foot, especially at night - late at night, just to protect women in general from possibly getting kidnapped or even other things,” she said.
Barros said “kidnapping on campus hasn’t happened yet, but we should be proactive about issues like these.”
Kim Dexter, assistant vice president of human resources and equal opportunity and Title IX coordinator, said the staff has been conducting prevention studies on sexual harrasment, sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking.
She said from the last sexual violence climate survey, they were able to obtain many answers from students regarding safety.
A new survey will be launching next Monday and she encourages students to fill it out.
Brian Dyson, president of Brother 2 Brother, said there is a need for support from staff for affinity groups.
He said the school’s Instagram page doesn’t promote affinity groups as much as it does other clubs.
Jeffrey Coleman, vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, said students want a sense of belonging at the University.
Barros said there is a need for more cultural events on campus to emphasize the importance of all cultures.
Dillon Riley, an SGA senator, proposed hiring a mental health professional at University police.
He said many town police departments have started to include someone prepared to handle mental health crises in order to help those in need.
Lieutenant Martin Laughlin said police officers go through training in mental health assistance.
Ward said, “I think it's just how can we get more funding so kids can feel better supported when it comes to situations like this?”
Having a psychologist on the police department for mental health calls could be beneficial to students, she said.
A student present at the meeting said she has been in a situation where they were having a panic attack and their parents called 911 because they weren’t sure what to do.
“I had three police officers in my room, and that freaked me out even more because they had guns on them - like all their gear and everything. I think they must have not known what to do, so they tried to restrain me, which made me even more anxious.”
They said in these situations, especially on a school campus, it's important to have trained people to handle situations like these because the Health and Counseling Center is closed over the weekend.
The student said they believe students are generally afraid of cops.
Ward said a great way for students to get to know the University’s police staff is to come to their events.
Laughlin said, “We want to try to break the barrier.”
Barros questioned why Sandella's is still closed over the weekends. She said this has been hard for students since they only have a few options for dining.
Aretha Phillips, dining services general manager, said the reason for keeping Sandella's closed is declining enrollment.
She said the number of students dining at Sandella’s over the weekend was low.
Ward and Elkoury shared that a student complained about chicken being raw about two weeks ago.
Phillips said when students see issues with food, they should report it right away in order to protect other students who might be eating something that is not properly cooked.
Dyson said he has seen many improvements in the food since Phillips took over dining services.
“Nothing's perfect in the world. There's always going to be a rainy day, but she definitely holds it down,” he said.
Evelyn Campbell, SGA outreach and events coordinator, said a student brought up a concern about student accounts.
“So, they came from another university. They were calling and asking about how their loans work and asking more questions. From that, they said that the person was extremely rude - when they tried calling the day after that, the lady told them that if they keep calling them again, she will strike the student’s ID,” Campbell said.
Dexter said it is very “important” to report situations where a staff member oversteps.
“There's a director in most departments. Sometimes, titles are a little funky. So you can certainly follow the chain of command. But my office is available for any employee concerns that come up,” Dexter said.
Barros brought up another issue regarding student services. She said she was advocating for a student whose first language is not English.
“I went in there asking if the registrar's office could help them with their appeal because the registrar's office told them to do an appeal but didn't give them any resources to do the appeal. And one of the ladies from the Student Accounts Office told me that the student does not need any help because the student has written many emails to them,” she said.
Barros said the University has to pay more attention to students who don’t speak English fluently or are first-generation students because not everyone has someone at home who can help.
She said, “There’s a lot of privilege that the University itself as a non-person of color has here.”
Barros added, "We're 10% away from being at a minority-serving institution, and about 49% first-generation students.”
Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said the school has 12 strategies to raise enrollment, and one of them is customer service.
“We do recognize there is a need for improvements there. So we'll continue to work on that. And as a part of that, at the end of that whole process, today was a reflection or a recognition that each of these initiatives needs to have an equity review as part of it,” Hamel said.
Barros said student forms and resources should be more visible to students and not hidden in a website.
She suggested using QR codes to make forms and resources available to students.
Eli Paré, a graduate student, brought up a concern regarding the graduate commencement being held on a separate date from the undergraduate program.
Paré said she received the notice that the commencement was moved to Friday, May 19 last Wednesday. She said she signed paperwork earlier this semester in January that said that graduation was going to be held on Sunday, May 21.
President Nancy Niemi said the decision was made by her because faculty and staff were requesting something different because usually, the commencement is undergraduate focused.
Paré said it’s very inconvenient for people’s families that have already planned for this day months ago, and now the number of guests is limited to only five people.
“I think if it had been something that we'd known was coming for the whole year, it wouldn't feel like such a gut punch, but this is now a ceremony where you know some of the faculty that we were relying on to be there will not make it because of this recent change. Support systems that we were hoping will be there cannot make it and now we have to pick and choose between friends,” Paré said.
Niemi apologized and said there is nothing she can do to reverse this.
Ben Hurney, SGA senator, brought up a concern regarding washing machines working in residence halls.
“I just have a hard time knowing which ones work. Some of them have like a swamp growing in them and others will say that there's no water,” he said.
Barros asked why the washing machines were not working even though University funds were put toward them.
Glenn Cochran, associate dean of students and student life, said the laundry machines have a system-wide contact.
He said typically, when washing machines are down and they ask for a replacement, it’s often done.
“We want high-efficiency machines because I think the sustainability benefit is important. But they also should be commercial machines that hold up well,” Cochran said.
He encourages students to fill out a form regarding laundry machines not working so they can send people to repair them.
Sam Houle, SATF treasurer, said his meal swipe plan allows him to use it up to 7 times per week, but having limited meal swipes per week is not good for students, because other SODEXO schools give all students all their meal swipes at once each semester and they can use them the way they wanted.
Barros said, “I think we're not given enough responsibility on our own to also learn these life lessons."
As a response, Phillips said the reason FSU has this meal swipe plan is because they want to make sure students will have enough swipes to carry throughout the semester.
Ward said, “We're really lucky to have this chance to have this open communication with the University administration.”
[Editor’s Note: McKenzie Ward is Opinions Editor and Ben Hurney is a Staff Writer for The Gatepost]
[Editor's Note: This article was originally published with multiple errors.
The first error is in the paragraph, “Barros said a student complained about steak and chicken being raw about two weeks ago.” This paragraph is not correctly attributed. This was discussed by SGA Vice President Raffi Elkoury as well as Student Trustee McKenzie Ward.
The second mistake is in the paragraph, “She said the school privileges white students and that ‘we’re 10% away from being a minority-serving institution, and about 49% first-generation students.’” This was misunderstood. What SGA President Dara Barros said was, “There’s a lot of privilege that the University itself as a non-person of color has here.”
The third error occurred in the paragraph, “Barros asked why the washing machines were not working even though SGA allocated funds toward them.” Barros had asked why they were not working even though the University purchased new ones. The “we” Barros was referring to at the meeting was misunderstood as SGA.
The last error is in the paragraph, “‘I think we’re not given enough responsibility on our own to also learn these life lessons,’ he said.” The “he” referred to SATF Treasurer Sam Houle. This is incorrect. This quote was actually spoken by Barros.
We apologize for these errors. We thank SGA for the work they do in holding these forums every semester.]