By: Madison Ruffo
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- On Thursday, February 28, students and administrators gathered in Dunleavy 127 to engage in a “Town Hall” meeting hosted by a number of the NUSGA representatives. A panel consisting of student-body President (Cheyenne Freely), student-body Vice President (Nick Graham), NUSGA’s Diversity and Inclusion chair (Elizabeth Camara), Event Planner (Morgan Matthews) and Communications Director (Brigid Gorman) prompted members of the Niagara University community to air their grievances to the student leaders in a constructive setting.
Topics ranging from the recent rodent issue to the thermostats in the Apartments and everything in between were covered in this roughly hour-long “pow-wow.” Here are some of the highlights of the discussion.
The meeting started strong when student Taylor Lilton immediately addressed the elephant in the room (or should I say the mouse). Last semester it was reported that mice had been spotted in Clet hall and since then, despite the nearly six-week break – which should’ve provided ample time to address the problem – the mice remain in Clet and have now emerged in most of the west-campus residence halls.
“Orkin is our exterminator and they come by on a regular basis,” responded Freely. “They come only when someone files a work order.” This answer didn’t seem to sit well with the crowd. Lilton was not just looking for a response, but for action – which is what nearly every student in attendance was hoping for. The most definitive answer the panel gave regarding the rodents is that the problem should be taken care of over spring break.
This was a surprisingly popular topic among the members of the audience as well as the panel. The discussion began with the address of the meal plan – or lack thereof – for the on-campus apartments. Students already pay nearly the same to live in the apartments as they would to live in any of the residence halls and would have to purchase a commuter meal plan to have access to the Dining Commons.
“It’s the notion that you can cook for yourself,” said Freely. She additionally attributed the higher cost of living to the high demand for the apartments. Gorman interpreted the exclusion of a meal plan as cost-effective because it gives students the option to shop off campus for a lower total cost than a year-long commuter meal plan.
In addition to the dining options for the apartments, their temperature was also discussed. Several students in the audience were concerned about the fluctuation in temperature between rooms in the apartments. This topic sparked an interest with the panel as at least two of the five student leaders live in the apartments and have experienced similar conditions.
In recent past, the thermostats – which originally resided in each individual apartment – were removed and replaced by one master thermostat that lies in the laundry room on each floor. This consolidation was included in NU’s Green Initiative – a push to make NU a more sustainable campus.
“They’re not going to reverse the green initiative that they implemented years ago,” said Freely. “They would have to have some sort of better plan in place [in order to fix the problem].”
Freely’s mention of the Green Initiative sparked conversation about sustainability here on campus. While Fr. Aiden Rooney C. M. confirmed that NU did switch all of its light bulbs from incandescent to LED, sustainability on campus was a big concern for the students in attendance.
It is to the understanding of the student-body that the contracted waste management company does not separate recyclables from waste when removing the trash from campus. That being said, it was acknowledged at the meeting that NU can take some of the blame when it comes to recycling. Graham addressed the fatal flaw with the recycling cans on campus: while there are three slots to separate the various types of recyclables, they all go into one trash bag. Kevin McDonnell, another student in attendance, brought up his concerns over the amount of plastic utensils, straws and to-go containers used by Metz Culinary Management in the Gallagher center.
While the panel could provide acknowledgement and understanding, the clearest solution they proposed was for Graham to take the concerns to the sustainability committee of the University Planning and Recourse Council.
Diversity has been a widely-talked-about topic on NU’s campus for quite some time, and efforts toward achieving intersectionality were once again discussed. This time, the topic of providing more inclusive opportunities for international students was at the forefront of the conversation. Students proposed that the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) hold a diversity club fair that was more involved with the students in Gally rather than in the MPR, where the majority of OMA events are held. Camara seemed to light up at the desire for more intersectionality and said a diversity club fair is definitely a possibility.
She also proposed a speed-dating format of cultural infusion to get international students more acquainted with American students and culture.
“A lot of international students only stick with international students and Americans with Americans,” said Camara.
Overall, this meeting was a good start in the efforts toward open communication and transparency. Unfortunately, while the student leaders in NUSGA and other leadership programs have influence in student life, many of the complaints and critiques presented stretched far beyond the capacity of a student government. However, by getting students unified with the same vision for the university change could be in the foreseeable future. That involves the participation of the community, not just the handful of students in attendance on Thursday.
“[This meeting] proved to me that students need and want an outlet to bring these issues to,” said Freely. “The continued implementation of this as a regular event will help NUSGA to set its own agenda, and help the students and the NUSGA to work together cohesively to build up our community.”
The next “Town Hall” meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Dunleavy 127.
Feature image by Niagara University Student Government Association