Students voice concerns at town hall


Michael Guido, News Editor

Gannon University had a student-focused town hall Thursday night in an effort to hear from students of all backgrounds.

Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., provost and vice president for the student experience, hosted the event, which was held in the Hammermill Center with a select group of students who pre-registered; the remaining students and faculty attended via Zoom.

The event centered on several topics, including racial justice, communication, COVID-19 and diversity on campus.

For 90 minutes, students commented on issue they saw within the Gannon community and offered solutions to the problems raised.

Students began by focusing on a lack of administrative presence at club and organization events, to which Iwanenko promised greater attendance at events from those in leadership positions.

The issue that garnered the most attention was the perceived lack of diversity and inclusiveness of minority students on campus.

Students dug into the disproportionate funding levels for certain clubs and organizations over clubs like the Black Student Union and the International Hispanic Association.

Iwanenko reminded students of the established steering committee, which is tasked with finding solutions to confront those problems campus-wide.

Iwanenko said that the committee will include students from all backgrounds.

Claudia Herrero, a junior public service & global affairs major, said she agreed with the idea of the committee and recommended that a university official be added to meetings in order to have all sides heard.

Some other ideas tossed around to address a lack of diversity and racial injustice at Gannon included opening more doors for international students to have access to internships in Erie, creating a mandatory course on human diversity training and hiring people of greater diverse backgrounds.

Iwanenko said these ideas would be considered.

The discussion then shifted to Gannon’s response to COVID-19, with students offering tales of not receiving equitable reimbursements for certain expenses in the spring, lack of financial support for international students and students feeling certain needs were not addressed by the university.

Iwanenko said that the lack of large reimbursements was due to Gannon still offering food and housing options after the university shut down and international students being ineligible for federal assistance under the CARES Act.

Iwanneko also said that students were given leeway in the spring semester with no late fees being charged and payment plans being offered as solutions for students struggling to pay bills.

In order to help student during difficult economic times, a student suggested that Gannon look for financial aid beyond what the federal government provides in grant funding.

The last major thing that became a topic of conversation was Gannon’s perceived communication issues.

Students complained of inadequate communication and messaging from the university directed toward the student body.

Iwanenko said that the university would make an effort to improve the flow of information being sent to students and that communication would improve overall.

A common phrase repeated by Iwanenko throughout the event was “what else could we be doing?”

During the town hall, Iwanenko also made a point to remind students of the upcoming “winter-mester” and what would be offered through that, as well as that Gannon is a family, and that the university is always striving to improve the student experience.

Students who were in attendance offered a positive rating of the event.

Andres Hasburn, a sophomore political science and business administration major who is an international student, said the event was a “victory” for Gannon.

“It demonstrated that the administration is improving towards more racial equality throughout campus to help minorities,” Hasburn said. “Overall, the main topic discussed was to figure out a way to help minority students feel more comfortable and promote the idea of racial diversity.”

Hasburn said he believes this should become a recurring event.

“Hopefully, more events like this happen in the future so the views and opinions of students can be expressed in an open and free environment,” Hasburn said.

Claudia Herrero, a junior public service & global affairs major, said the event was well- organized and informative.

“I had the chance to voice my concerns and listen to other students’ struggles and opinions,” Herrero said.

Herrero said she hopes that the broad conversation will continue.


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