University officials listen to student concerns

Students expressed concern about problems with financial aid and space for University organizations to top University officials at a town hall meeting in the D’Angelo Center Ballroom last Wed., Feb. 16.

The meeting was lead by Rev.. Donald Harrington, C.M., University president, Dr. Julia Upton, University provost, and the executive vice presidents and deans of each individual college.

This was the third town hall meeting held during this academic year. The first was held in Sept. and lead by Rev.. James Maher, executive vice president for the Office of Vincentian Mission, and the executive cabinet. The second town hall was an academic forum and was lead by Dr. Upton and her cabinet.

There is at least one academic meeting and a joint-cabinet town hall meeting during each year, according to S.G.I. president Patrick Brewer.

In a packed room on the fourth floor of D’Angelo, administrators answered questions that concerned both student-organizations and individual issues affecting students.

Some of the most common issues brought up by organizations were about the lack of space for meetings and accommodations.

A representative of the Muslim Student Association brought up that the group was still located in the University Center and that their assigned room was too small to accommodate the number of members who join in prayer on Fridays. Student Life assured them that this issue was on the top of their list of changes

 to address.

Throughout the meeting many student complained about financial aid issues such as refund checks, scholarships and payment options. Many students were concerned about the recent cuts in state funding, while other students brought up complaints about not receiving their refund checks for any excess aid.

Jorge Rodriguez, associate vice president of Student Financial Services, told students that state funding to students would not be cut. He also ensured students that checks went out as soon as their aid came in.

Students had mixed feeling on the accomplishments of the University. Shantaur Williams, a sophomore, felt that the questions students asked were interesting but that the answers administrators gave were indirect.

Williams said she was happy about the large turnout and that continued attendance at these events could lead to change. She also said that any changes students propose now may not be implemented until they graduate and a new generation of students move in.

“We’re making changes for the next generation,” Williams said. “They may happen but we’ll be gone.”  

Williams expressed concern that problems with course offerings were not brought up. Williams, a history minor, said she wanted to take a specific history course offered by another college outside of St. John’s College but had trouble doing so.

When addressing the room in the beginning of the meeting, Harrington stressed that he and his executive cabinet do take all students’ complaints into consideration. He also said he was pleased with the recent morale boost that has come as a result of the success of St. John’s sports teams.