Gannon’s Student Government Association revisited a retired strategy to gain student feedback on recent university decisions.
According to SGA President Kendra Walker, Gannon has not held a student Town Hall Meeting for at least three years, but the method proved successful Monday night.
Roughly 40 students filled Room 219 of the Waldron Campus Center to have an open dialogue with university President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., as well as the SGA executive board.
After the university’s rollout of new restructuring plans two weeks ago – a decision that led to numerous staff layoffs – students demonstrated disapproval on social media as well as vocally on campus.
At the time, SGA was undergoing a transition process following annual elections of the new 2018-2019 executive board.
Walker noted that student concerns were voiced during the campaign season, and an emergency executive board meeting was held the Thursday following elections to plan the event after gaining Taylor’s full approval.
“When you get a lot of great heads together, it’s incredible what can be accomplished,” Walker said.
During the Town Hall event, students voiced questions by standing up and addressing Taylor or by virtually texting questions to Walker and SGA Chief of Staff Mackenzie Wenrick.
Alex Shroeck, a sophomore risk management and insurance major, said that the dialogue helped him understand how the decision to restructure logistically needed to occur to keep the university functioning at a healthy level.
Shroeck addressed the fact that when the initial decision was made, many students questioned how layoffs could be associated with the idea of a “Gannon family.” Taylor’s participation in the event helped him understand how the reality of the situation still fits Gannon’s motto.
“Families are all one in the same and have dysfunctional moments, moments they would like to do over,” he said. “The restructuring was done to set our family up for success in the future to continue to develop men and women into scholars.”
Although it was anticipated that many questions would be in regards to restructuring, students took the conversation in unexpected directions.
Some asked about the possibility of using solar power on campus while others inquired about diversity in domestic students and reasoning why Greek life accomplishments did not seem to be celebrated by the university marketing department.
One student asked why the Power Room had been closing earlier – 2 a.m. rather than 3 a.m. – since restructuring took place. Taylor admitted that he did not know this was the case and sought to find an answer.
By the end of the meeting, the president’s team reported that the change was likely due to the increased usage of the library by students for late-night studying.
Some students challenged this explanation because the library is only open until midnight.
Taylor assured them that he would continue to look for an answer and adjust this if need be.
While the event was set to last only one hour, it went on for nearly twice that long. Taylor and Walker took the time to answer all of the students’ questions, regardless of the original time length estimate.
Stephen Knouse, a junior mortuary science major, was impressed by the event, but he was disappointed it did not have a larger turnout by students.
“For the students that did show up, the Student Government Association and Dr. Taylor made sure every question got answered or they made a note to follow up on the issue with the proper personnel,” he said. “Dr. Taylor made sure he covered every question as thoroughly as possible and did not shy away from or have a ‘prerecorded’ response to any of them.”
Because the event was received well by students, Taylor welcomed the idea of making student Town Halls a more frequent event on campus. Walker said SGA is exploring the idea of hosting similar events during the next academic year.
If students are still experiencing unease about the ongoings of the university, Walker said she is always available to listen to their concerns and serve as a liaison for them between additional resources and support staff on campus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I am not claiming to have all the solutions,” she said. “I am just claiming to be here to listen and connect them.”
Photo courtesy of Brittiny Lene’/Knightby