Administration opens up about plans, students voice concerns

When walking into the Grambling Hall Auditorium for the Town Hall meeting held Feb. 19, it was a little shocking to see that the administration out-numbered the student body. This meeting was designed for both parties to open the lines of communication, allowing the students to ask questions regarding the campus and its well-being. The event began with opening remarks from Student Government Association Vice President, Steven Jackson. He then gave the administration a chance to introduce themselves and give a few of their own remarks before starting the question and answer forum.

Dr. Stacey Duhon, vice president of Student Affairs, started the introductions followed by other members such as, Dr. Horace A. Judson, President. Each expressed that they were ready to clear those fuzzy lines of communication between the student body and the administration. To start the forum off correctly, Jackson asked the first question of the evening.

“What are we doing to improve our means of communication?”

This question was answered with an assurance that this campus is evolving with future projects such as, digital signing in the halls to inform students of first call alerts and other important events. It was also brought to the audience’s attention that the on campus cable channel 2 will also be used as a tool for disseminating messages to the student body.

The food court will have more entertainment features for the students to enjoy and the campus security will be brought up a notch. Soon the campus will be lit with blue light emergency phones and horns will be put around to alert the students of any major catastrophes.

When finished, Jackson responded that the students are trying to get out of using black and white flyers and begin to come into the digital era.

It was not long before the Univeristy’s budget came to the floor. With the economic crisis that this country is in, students were concerned about everything from tuition to cuts in our everyday running as an institution.

“In less than five years, we are looking at our third budget cut.,” said President Judson, “. $1 million in 2006 and $1.3 million in 2009.”

Many faces were a little puzzled after finding out this information. Judson informed the audience that the administration has tried very hard to not let the cuts affect the students and their tuition. He was willing to share that right now, the institution has been instructed to make some adjustments in its budget, leaving GSU with two different plans.

One will lead to a 15 percent cut which is about $4 million and the other is a 30 percent cut which is about $8 million. Nothing has been decided yet, regarding to which one it will be, but it was assured that the recently signed stimulus bill might help. Some things that may hinder the students are the state grants which may receive a few cuts and a slight increase in tuition, but still all is depending on the funds from the stimulus bill.

The conversation, slowly but surely, moved away from the discussion of money to the housing leases and sign-out process for students living in the dorms.

Anthony Jackson, Director of Residential Life, shed some light of the seemingly confusing process. He made it very clear that the contract, which is signed by those who reside on campus, allows the student to stay on campus during the academic semesters of Fall and Spring. At no time will a student be allowed to just live on campus during semester breaks.

One student expressed their concern with wanting to stay after finals were over to see a relative or close friend graduate. She was instructed that there are many times when students need to stay a little longer for various reasons, but they need to contact housing to let them know of the reason and then it will be handled in the proper manner. It was explained that the department also makes accommodations for those students who need to be picked up or brought to an airport.

Now the forum was truly open for students to ask or express anything they felt needed addressing. Everything from obtaining out-of-state fee waivers, student parking, to the care of the academic buildings was brought to the table.

It was stated that student parking will be improved this Fall and commuters will have it easier to find a place to park their cars. The out-of -state fee waiver was the discussion that caught most of the attention. It was said that in order to obtain a waiver, it was now mandatory to sign a contract stipulating that it is understood that the guidelines must be met in order to keep it.

Also, there are limited ways of getting the waiver. A student needs to be a part of a spirit group such as Choir, Band and/or Orchesis, in order to receive a fee waiver. A student also may have an Ambassador Scholarship as a means of receiving this waiver. There was still a concern for those who need other financial assistance.

Judson explained that there are 30 discipline based programs on campus that offer some sort of scholarship to help relieve the financial burdens of students, if they qualify. For example, SGA offers a need-based scholarship.

As the questions kept coming, there was one particular student who seem to have shown a great deal of concern for a lot of things on this campus.

Whether it was with the Wi-Fi in the dorms and classrooms, maintenance in the academic buildings, or getting new and enjoyable books in the library, Janean Brown, the senior psychology major from Chicago, had questions and she wanted them answered.

“I appreciate Dr. Dixon for listening to my concerns,” she expressed at the end of the meeting, “I mean, I have been here four years and I have not seen a change in improvements in the academic buildings.”

Janean was not the only one satisfied with how the comments and concerns were handled. Many students, who stayed for the entire meeting, seemed to be impressed with the administrations approach to maintaining the institution.

It is only a matter of time until the improvements discussed will surface, leaving the administration and student body pleased with the end results.