BY JAMIE REESE
On September 26, 2013, I attended a Council of Trustees meeting at the Innovation Center. The meeting started at 4 PM.
Upon entering the room, I was greeted by administrators, Laurie MontForte, a reporter for Eyewitness News, and bewildered faculty. I was a student at a Council of Trustees meeting.
MontForte asked me if it was a secret meeting, or whether students just didn’t care about retrenchment. Justin Amann, Student Senate President, met her with objections about how an email was sent out, but besides Valentina Caval, Editor in Chief, and me, he was the only other student there. A student representative –whom I never voted for—was also in attendance.
As evidenced by the Silent Walk exactly a week prior—where about seventy students marched to oppose retrenchment—caring certainly was not the reason for student absences.
The meetings were only open to those students with transportation or the knowledge of public transportation, an open schedule, and the willingness to read those emails with important matters buried with other information and written in twelve-point font.
Those meetings are open to the public only in name, because there are structural problems that in part prevent students from attending.
After I was unable to attend the last meeting on October 31, because of the exact reasons mentioned above, I sent an email to President Welsh. I got a response on behalf of the president a few days later, but I did not find all parts of it very satisfying, particularly those matters relevant to location.
Essentially, the response relevant to location ran “In previous years, the Council met in various locations on campus and public meetings were held in the Reibman Board Room. Often, there were so many guests for the meeting that the Chair asked if we could hold all of our meetings in the Innovation Center which would offer a better space for the opportunity to include more public participation. This location made the meetings more conducive for better attendance.”
This particular passage didn’t exactly make sense to me. Why not a location such as Lower Dansbury or the Keystone Room? Were they not aware the location would be less convenient for students?
The email continued, “On another note, please allow me to remind you that there is shuttle bus service to and from the Innovation Center so that all students may attend the meeting…Since moving to this location we have had better attendance, thus providing a more open environment for all campus constituents to attend the meetings.”
There were three students at the September meeting, and from what I’ve been told, only up to three students went to the most recent meeting. We all would have been there regardless of the location.
The shuttle is not convenient for students who have to work around classes, might not be able to stay the whole time, and who can’t afford to lose the time in transportation. It is just another unnecessary factor. In other words, the shuttle is not a consideration.
“Where is the Innovation Center?” asked Briana Magistro.
“It’s past the Ridge,” said Danielle Williams. “You can’t get there unless you take the shuttle bus, or if you have a car, which is probably what they wanted.”
“I think they have the meetings at the Innovation Center to discourage students from going to them,” continued Williams. “It’s extremely inaccessible.”
I responded to the email briefly mentioned above with a heated, somewhat abrasive email, and I did not receive a response. I’ve heard personal complaints from other students who could not attend because of the location, and the rumor is that this has been done on purpose, in order to keep students away from those meetings.
While this rumor might not be true (I can’t tell you one way or another), reluctance for a simple change does not look good.
Regardless of whether students will even go to those meetings does not fully matter. If this administration wants to quell the rumors circulating that those meetings are hidden, then they ought to commit to the easiest solution: move the meeting to a more centralized location.
If they can commit to this simple change, they will garner more trust from students, and they will undo one structural deficiency within this system that’s supposed to be student-centered. This simple change will help this university become more unified.
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