USGA’s Open Forum gives students platform to discuss grievances with campus life

With the university’s semesterly campus climate survey wrapped up, it’s important to match faces to student opinions about the current state of our school. The Undergraduate Student Government Association’s (USGA) Open Forum last Wednesday sought to do just that as students were invited to voice their thoughts about campus life, both bad and good, to some of the offices on campus.

Professional staff present at the event included representatives from the Dean of Students Office, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Center for Student Engagement, Leadership and Orientation (CSELO), the Career Development Center (CDC) and the Accessibility Resources Center (ARC).

Even on a cold and hailing night, where students may have been dissuaded from hiking all the way to Bucknall Theater, there were still enough present to produce a lively discussion about happenings on campus.

This open forum, unlike those in semester’s past, featured no specific topic; “everything is free game,” as Title IX/VAWA Compliance Director Ashley Dunn put it. She also opened by outlining some of the community guidelines which dictated how students would be expected to treat each other and their opinions in a vulnerable setting.

Conversations started off light as students discussed their wishes for certain establishments– retail options like WOW Cafe, Moe’s and the convenience store as well as the library– to be open earlier on weekends, or for others like the various coffee shops to be open on weekends.

Discussion then arose about the Bergami Center for Science, Technology and Innovation in particular as students asked for clarification on when its doors lock, and offered solutions for recent occasions where the building closed with almost no prior warning to the student body.

Topics quickly deepened in tone, as students shifted focus to student news reporters and recent articles which have received varying amounts of backlash, and requested more oversight on organizations in order to avoid platforming articles which may invoke harmful rhetoric around campus.

From here, the conversation transitioned toward diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training for organizations and students on campus, similar to the Step Up: Bystander to Upstander course. Attendants clamored for more intense DEI training to better suit situations which may occur in day-to-day life, and also debated the potential effectiveness of mandatory versus voluntary DEI training for all members of the campus community.

People need to eat, so it is to be expected that a lengthy conversation was had about dining on campus. Specifically, students were vehement about needing increased transparency for vegan, kosher and allergen-free foods, as well as a more concerted effort to avoid cross-contamination at these food stations.

Other points of the dining discussion included more variety in dishes served at Food on Demand.This issue is slowly being solved through initiatives like the recent spotlight on Black chefs for Black History Month and better training for dining staff in order to avoid future accounts of foodborne illness and hair in food.

Some students also wished for better education about important campus resources, such as the LiveSafe app, and cited the increased transparency with initiatives like meal equivalency as a jumping-off point. Additionally, students requested an overhaul to myCharger, as many agreed that the website feels out-of-date.

Accessibility on campus also arose as a hot-button topic, as students advocated for wheelchair-bound or otherwise disabled individuals who might find trouble getting into certain buildings, or are flat-out unable to traverse other buildings due to their reliance on staircases. Attendants also mentioned the hazards present with the crosswalk leading to Charger Plaza, especially when crossing guards are not available, and requested more focus on safety there.

With the CVS across the street recently closed, students have found it more difficult to acquire their necessities, notably prescribed medications, and took issue with the university only sponsoring shuttle travel to stores like Walmart and Target on the weekends.

Frustrations were also aired regarding the University Police Department (UPD) with multiple students corroborating sentiments of a sensed elitism within the department and citing rude behavior from UPD’s Chief of Police Adam Brown.

The forum concluded after each university office in attendance gave a brief description of what services they offer to students on campus, and a discussion about how much student feedback is taken into consideration pertaining to the current provost search and class evaluations.

USGA’s next open forum will be tomorrow, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge, featuring a panel of female professors in honor of Women’s History Month.