The Student Success Committee (SSC) held a meeting with President Cheryl Norton and Provost Philip Way Thursday night to discuss ways by which the administration can better facilitate communication with Slippery Rock’s student body.
As the conversation approached the topic of administration visibility, Norton admitted feeling uncomfortable around certain parts of campus.
“This may sound strange to you, but I don’t feel welcome in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership (CSIL),” she said.
Jenna Temple, the Slippery Rock Student Government Association’s outgoing vice president of internal affairs and the chair of the SSC, said it will take work on both sides to overcome this discomfort.
“I think this is a double-edged sword,” she said. “Students don’t feel comfortable going up to Old Main and stopping by your office to say ‘hi President Norton’ either.”
Students love seeing the administration around campus, Temple added, but they will need to go out of their way to be friendly in order to create a relaxed environment.
Emily Murasso, a community assistant, compared Way’s visibility to that of his most recent predecessor, Robert Watson.
“Dr. Watson was provost when I first came to Slippery Rock and he was around all the time,” she said. “Student affairs is in your job description, but I never see you around students.”
The president and provost have busy schedules, Way explained, indicating that in order to see them “you need to get in the rotation.”
Many student meet-and-greets have fallen through for various reasons, he said, but he would be willing to be more available in dining halls and other student areas as he has done recently in Boozel and plans to do in Weisenflu and Starbucks in coming weeks.
John Beckage, the president of SRU’s Veteran’s Group, captured the SSC’s ongoing concern by saying that “students have no clue about what’s happening on campus.”
“Students seem to have no input on the decisions that are made,” he said. “Everything we’re told comes from a third party and it often feels like we’re being talked down to.”
Students are not made aware of administrative decisions until they’re already decided, Beckage continued, indicating that students would have liked to have a say in renovations planned for Bailey Library, Spotts World Cultures Building and Miller Auditorium.
Norton countered this point by indicating that two student representatives appointed by SGA currently sit on the search committee to hire a new associate provost of student life.
Norton and Way expressed an interest in improved communication with SGA various times throughout the meeting, acknowledging that the student member of the Council of Trustees needs to be attending SGA meetings, but Sarah Abraham, a representative for RockOUT, indicated that would not be a cure-all.
“You keep talking about communicating with SGA, but SGA doesn’t communicate with the student body,” she said.
Abby Fugh, SGA’s newly elected vice president of student and academic affairs, said SGA plans to bridge their own communication gap by having senators attend meetings of large campus organizations to report on what SGA is doing.
At the meeting’s close, Norton, Way and the SSC agreed to monthly meetings with a rotating administration representative, more presentations at SGA meetings and creating a more casual culture between students and administrators.
“Maybe I’ll do the Twitter thing,” Norton said, acknowledging the communication benefits of social media.
Issues with the administration’s communication line became apparent last month when Way attended an SGA meeting and proposed moving underrepresented student groups from the CSIL to the University Union once it is renovated and rebranded the “Student Success Center.” The resulting controversy led to the creation of the SSC.