By ERIC STEIGLEDER and JESSICA BAREFOOT
The first ever Student Government Association town hall meeting was held in the Great Hall last Wednesday, as an opportunity for students to voice their opinions and concerns to the SGA Executive Council.
The forum was one of potentially several more that will occur throughout the year.
The Executive Council brings together both elected and appointed officials, including student representatives from the Inter Club Association, Judicial Review Board, the Association of Residence Halls, Legislative Action Committee, Honor Council, and the Diversity and Unity Coordinating Committee.
Also in attendance were Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker, and Executive Vice President Rick Hurley.
According to SGA President Samantha Miller, the function of the SGA town hall meeting is to serve as a sounding board for student opinion.
“The reason we’re here is to see what you want changed,” Miller said. “We can change things, improve things.”
Student safety, parking problems, maintenance issues, and technology issues received the most attention during the one-hour forum. Of specific concern to students and leaders alike were the recent changes to parking policies and student usage of the parking deck.
Executive Council Member and SGA Treasurer Annie Unger introduced the idea of installing security cameras in the parking deck, citing frequent student complaints and safety concerns.
Miller approved the idea, but expressed doubts.
“That’s something to look into,” Miller said, writing the suggestion down. “But it’s also a financial issue.”
Junior Amanda Gold echoed other student opinions on current parking policies.
“You shouldn’t have to work so hard to use your own car,” Gold said.
Miller concurred, expressing her familiarity with the issue.
“Parking is the one thing that people keep bringing up,” she said.
The issue of technology was also a reoccurring theme, specifically, the adoption of the new email system. Concerns about the unpredictability of emails forwarding from the umw.edu setup to the mail.umw.edu raised concern from Executive Cabinet Member and DUCC Chairperson Joe Buonannata.
“There’s a of lot confusion about how to operate the e-mail system and where e-mails are going,” Buonannata said.
Senior Ashley Davis concurred, explaining her personal issues with the new e-mail system. As a Mary Washington guide, Davis arrived on campus early, and saw firsthand the issues that arose when the incoming freshmen class were given two separate e-mail accounts.
“They should have waited for the switch to mail.umw.edu,” Davis said. “If you ever do this again, God, do it differently. It was such a bad idea.”
Other technology issues that were mentioned included the erratic nature of campus wi-fi and the shortage of Apogee technicians on hand.
Executive Cabinet Member and SGA Parliamentarian Ashley Nixon not only requested more technicians with more training, but also acknowledged the issue of wi-fi internet access in dorm rooms.
“It’s not in Marshall [Hall]. I wasn’t in Russell,” Nixon said. “It’s sporadic. We should figure out wi-fi.”
Miller suggested contacting DoIT, the technology staff at UMW, or the Help Desk, located in the bottom of George Washington Hall, frequently until the problem is resolved.
Another item that garnered much audience reaction was the topic concerning the lack of student knowledge regarding the construction of both the Eagle Village across Route 1 as well as the William M. Anderson Center directly behind Goolrick Hall.
“People really don’t know what’s going on about Eagle Village. The students really aren’t aware,” senior Emma Peck said. “There’s a lot of cool stuff going on that people should know about.”
In response to these concerns, Executive Council Member and Honor Council President Sarah Payne suggested updating the Mary Washington Facebook page monthly in an effort to inform students of the latest campus news.
Near the end of the meeting Miller mentioned the Executive Cabinet’s intention to continue the town hall-style forum.
“We’re hoping to make this a regular thing,” Miller said. “We want to get a lot of students.”
“It went very well,” SGA Vice President Hassan Abdelhalim said at the end of the meeting. “There are lots of students out there that have something to say. We’re hearing those opinions.”
Much mention was made of the lack of student attendance, an issue Dean of Student Life Dean Rucker openly addressed.
“Student time is tight,” Rucker said. “It’s difficult for them to decide, difficult to juggle so many endeavors.”
Sophomore Katherine Holmberg also noticed the lack of student attendance.
“I wish more people would come, but it was good,” Holmberg said. “You can’t complain if you don’t show up.”
Miller had similar thoughts, but responded with optimism.
“I’m disappointed that more students didn’t take the time to talk to us. I’m trying to find a way to reach them,” she said. “But I’m happy we had a good dialogue going. We learned a lot.”