SRU students raise safety, food insecurity concerns in SGA survey

Published by , Author: Hannah Shumsky - Assistant News Editor, Date: November 8, 2018

Students received the opportunity to inform the Student Government Association (SGA) of their perspectives on various campus issues, including mental health and diversity, last month via the annual Student Life Survey.

Elizabeth Hernandez, vice president of student and academic affairs of the Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SGA), presented the results of the survey during SGA’s formal meeting on Monday.

In safety topics, the majority of SRU students feel safe on campus, a trend from the past four years of the survey, according to Hernandez. However, the survey asked students to select reasons they feel unsafe, including sexual violence (15.45 percent), general crime (11.3 percent), physically unsafe (3.9 percent), racial aggression (2.6 percent) and other (3.9 percent).

Hernandez said that 116 of the 119 students who listed sexual violence were female.

“We’ve been having conversations with administration and our advisors on SGA on how we can address that,” Hernandez said.

The food pantry was created in response to last year’s Student Life Survey. This year, 33 percent said that they know at least one person, including themselves, who do not have consistent access to food.

“There were still some large numbers that said [inconsistent access] is pretty often during the semester,” Hernandez said. “That was kind of concerning to us, but it also gives us a reason to pursue our food pantry interests.”

This year, SGA asked students specific questions about logistics of the pantry, including its location and more convenient time to access. According to Hernandez, the Macoskey Center has been a controversial location.

“A lot of schools don’t offer fresh produce with their food pantries, and Macoskey gives us that opportunity,” Hernandez said. The Macoskey Center also donated a refrigerator for the pantry.

Last week, the SGA executive board determined the pantry’s location on the first floor of the Macoskey Center. While the pantry is still in development, students are currently able to access food.

SGA is also investigating a meal swipe donation program, which would allow students to donate their unused meal swipes to another student. In the survey, 65 percent indicated they would donate extra meal swipes to a student who suffers from food insecurity.

The survey also addressed mental health for the first time, as 42 percent of survey respondents said they currently have or have had a mental health issue. An additional 13 percent said they were unsure if they do.

When asked if SRU addresses the needs of someone with a mental illness, the majority (45 percent) said “sometimes,” followed by “yes” (42 percent) and no (13 percent).

“My committee asked these questions because they are in hopes to address more mental health issues on our campus,” Hernandez said.

If students indicated that they have used the counseling center, they were asked questions about their experiences. The majority of respondents said they had issues scheduling an appointment (54 percent) and would benefit from more time with a counselor (77.78 percent) and unlimited counseling appointments (87.73 percent).  

“These are conversations that we’re going to be having with the counseling center as well as Dr. [Keith] Dils who oversees as well as the provost,” Hernandez said.

The majority of survey respondents identified as female, resulting in a 30 percent overrepresentation. Additionally, 89 percent of survey respondents identified as white compared to the 85.8 percent of the student population as reported in fall 2017.

“A lot of the students who were with a diverse background did not all say ‘no,’ and the students who reported ‘yes’ were not all white,” Hernandez said. “It was an interesting demographic, but again, we didn’t have a great turnout for those numbers.

The survey received 798 responses, accounting for 9.04 percent of SRU’s total population of 8,824.

In other demographics, only 4.5 percent of respondents were graduate students. The other class levels were consistent between 20 and 26 percent. The majority of respondents, 45 percent, identified as a student in the College of Health, Environment and Science.

Hernandez also said the student life survey was also hacked, leading to 500 fake submissions and a delay in the presentation of results. 

“We just got 500 fake results from spam email accounts and robots, but we were able to filter all out those out,” Hernandez said.

Following the student life survey review, SGA senators approved three finance requests. Love Your Melon’s first-time funding request of $327 will be spent on travel to UPMC and the St. Jude Walk in Pittsburgh.

In new initiative requests, approved the Marching Pride’s request of $20,800 for buses to Philadelphia International Airport, where the band will fly to Ireland to march in two competitive parades. Black Action Society’s approved request of $5,000 will fund transportation, fees, and food for the organization’s annual cultural trip to Memphis, Tennessee.

The senators approved Comedy Club as a recognized organization. The club, comprised of 12 members, was seeking recognition to gain resources and promote open mic comedy nights.

A motion to approve Paws of the Rock as a recognized organization was tabled. Senator Elaine O’Rourke motioned to refer the matter back to the rules and policies committee until representatives from Paws of the Rock amend their constitution to include a section on required immunization documents. O’Rourke’s motion passed with six nays. 

The next SGA formal meeting will be on Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Smith Student Center Theatre.

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Hannah is a senior secondary English education major and communication minor entering her third year on The Rocket staff and her second year as editor-in-chief. Previously, she served as assistant news editor and covered Student Government Association affairs. After graduation, she hopes to teach English, communications and journalism to high school students. Hannah has won numerous awards for her writing and design work with The Rocket and was named SRU's Student Leader of the Year in 2020. Outside of The Rocket, Hannah is also part of WSRU-TV, Sigma Tau Delta and the Honors College.


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