Campus Discusses Courses, Diversity, More at Open Forum

Photo Credit/ Nick Stein From left to right: Bill Cheetham, Cornelia Sewell-Allen, Amy Freeman, Gene Kelly, and Joanne Bruno discussed student's concerns at the open forum in Abeloff last Monday.

Nick Stein 

Staff Writer 

ESU’s Student Government Association (SGA) held its first campus open forum of 2020 on Monday in the Abeloff Center for Performing Arts. The event was coordinated with Dr. Santiago Solis, the Vice President of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence (CLIE).

A number of faculty members and administrators were on hand to converse with students and to address their questions, comments, and concerns. President Marcia Welsh was also in attendance. Several of the administrators gave extensive opening remarks before the discussion was opened to the audience, nearly an hour into the event.

Provost Joanne Bruno opened by reviewing the process by which students report their issues and concerns regarding faculty and courses. Bruno finished her time by announcing that a priority for her will be addressing the lack of diversity among the ESU faculty and administration. She added that out of the six recently hired professors, four of them are people of color.

Up next, Cornelia Sewell-Allen, the Vice President of CLIE, discussed the new initiatives her office is taking on campus. Primarily their focus will be on diversity and inclusion. “I think the university has been doing a lot as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Sewell said. 

In addition to starting new conversations regarding minorities on campus, as well as people with disabilities, CLIE is working on creating women of color initiative program.

Amy Freeman, the director of Health and Wellness on campus,  addressed the concerns surrounding ESU’s mental health services. She said that one of the issues that her office struggles with regularly is getting an overwhelming number of visitations during walk-in hours. 

Freeman announced, however, that her department would soon be implementing a new system where students would be appointed to specific time blocks throughout the day, based on the urgency of their situation.

She also added that Health and Wellness recently hired a new counselor for the department.

After the administrators’ opening remarks, Leila Bouchekouke, the president of SGA, turned the microphone over to the students.  

Sophomore Arshad Rivers, the president of ESU’s Men of Color Alliance (MOCA), asked what the administration was doing about the low retention rates at ESU. Provost Bruno, in response, stated that addressing the issue of retention was a top priority of the administration, specifically the enrollment office. 

As part of a new initiative to address issues in regards to retention, she said, her office is starting up a new Warrior Success Network.

Multiple concerns were brought up on the state of Zimbar Hall. A recent CLIE survey revealed that a large number of students at ESU were dissatisfied with the quality of service provided by the financial aid, billing, and enrollment offices, located at Zimbar. 

Bill Cheetham, the interim Vice President of Enrollment Services, responded to the comments, saying that the offices in Zimbar are very understaffed, however, there is room for improvement in job performance there. 

Cheetham discussed what he believes is a lack of confidence among students who go to Zimbar seeking assistance. “We are working very hard to retrain and refocus people who work in Zimbar” he noted.

Administrators were also asked about a situation where a forensic biology professor admitted to their class that they themselves were not educated in forensics, and the only thing they knew about the subject was from watching NCIS. 

Provost Bruno was shocked to hear of the incident and stated that the university is trying to attract and retain the most qualified and experienced faculty possible. 

After the event, Cornelia Sewell-Allen said that she believed the forum went very well.

“When we hear student’s feedback, it informs how we progress in our profession,” she said.

President Welsh did not have anything to say during the event but told the Courier afterward that she felt as though the students did not have enough time to speak about all the concerns they had. 

Welsh added that there should have been less dialogue altogether on the part of the administration and that students did not want to be lectured by ‘talking heads’ all night. 

A number of administrators stayed after the forum ended to speak with any students who did not get the opportunity to say anything during the event. 

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