EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was edited on Oct. 5 to correct one of the graduate senator’s names.
Last week, the Student Government Association hosted its first town hall for the SRU community, providing a chance for concerned students or faculty members to ask President William Behre any question about community affairs.
Opportunities like the town hall are essential to having your student perspective understood at the administrative level. However, if you missed the town hall or didn’t understand the context behind the questions, here’s some insight for you:
1SRU’s price tag will most likely go up next year.
Both SRU and PASSHE didn’t increase tuition this year; however, this left SRU with $1 million “in the hole” according to Behre.
Because of this, there will be a proposed tuition increase, although the percentage increase has not yet been announced. Behre said that part of this increase will be dedicated to go back into financial aid, a move that is aimed to help attract students whose families make less than $100,000 annually to attend SRU.
Conversations regarding the tuition for next year are in progress, and those decisions will be discussed at future council of trustees meetings.
2Graduate student representation will be an SGA priority.
The graduate student experience was a largely-discussed topic, but the reasons behind these questions require a bit of context.
Last year, Matt Lerman (current SGA parliamentarian) was the only graduate senator in the SGA senate. A couple weeks ago, Tabea Ohle and Danielle Dovgan were sworn in as graduate senators. Ohle studies marketing and management at the Regional Learning Alliance in Cranberry, and Dovgan is a second-year students in the doctorate of occupational therapy program at SRU’s Harrisville location.
The graduate student representation doesn’t stop there. Dallas Kline and Riley Keffer, who both previously served on the SGA executive board during their undergraduate careers, are both student affairs in high education masters students who are on the SGA board of directors.
Having five graduate senators heavily involved in SGA is certainly unique to this year and informed many of the questions concerning the graduate student experience, especially when it comes to communication and transportation. Expect this topic to be a priority from SGA for the next year.
3Expect cross involvement between organizations this year.
So far, College Republicans and Young Progressives have started this off by co-hosting a voter registration drive. With the 2020 election coming into view, this solidarity is a great first step to reduce political polarization on campus, and I’m personally excited to see how the College Republicans and Young Progressives continue this partnership.
During the town hall, Behre suggested that the two organizations work together on Relay For Life, for example. Be on the lookout for the possibility of this type of collaboration this year.
4Despite the broad range of questions discussed, only about 40 people attended to ask the questions.
Most of the Smith Student Center (SSC) theater seats were left empty at the forum, and most of the students in the audience were directly affiliated with SGA or the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership.
SGA did offer ways for students who had class (including me) or other commitments to submit questions on CORE prior to the event. WSRU-TV’s live stream of the event also made the discussion more accessible for students who couldn’t attend. That video gained about 180 views within 48 hours.
However, especially after Behre’s forum last February attracted over 600 people, it’s shocking that this forum didn’t attract even one-tenth of that audience. For context, Behre held a town hall discussion after a Black History Month poster was vandalized in Rhoads Hall. The audience for that discussion filled the entire ballroom.
Personally, I highly doubt that one specific issue ties into this attendance. However, I hope to see more promotion from SGA, professors and other student organizations to get a better turnout for next time.
5The next town hall will address self care and mental health.
The next SGA town hall will be Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. in the SSC Theater. This time, there will be a panel discussion about self care and mental health on college campuses. Panelists will be announced at a later date.
Unfortunately, SRU is too familiar with the nationwide college mental health crisis; however, if I know anything about this small town community, it’s that we band together to make changes in the hardest times, and I sincerely hope the attendance at this event shows our dedication to make a change.
In short: show up, represent yourself and your peers and use your voice to make a change.