The Student Government Association (SGA) held a town hall meeting on Feb 25 which predominantly centered around Seton Hall’s ongoing strategic plan. Students and faculty had a chance to raise questions about sustainability, accessibility, affordability and many other issues at Seton Hall.
SGA members weighed in on the purpose of the town hall meeting and what they hoped SGA achieved from this event.
“I know sometimes students feel they are cut off from us, so this is a chance for them to speak with us, come speak with admins from different schools,” freshman diplomacy major and SGA Village Relations committee vice-chair Chase Cohen said. “We want to hear students’ voices, we are meant to represent them. This will give us a chance to do this.”
“It shows a sense of community, to unite the actual student body and SGA,” freshman diplomacy major and SGA senator Aminat Tokakov said. “We are not here just for ourselves, we want to represent everyone. I feel like this is a good opportunity to reach out and be as transparent as possible.”
The main topic of discussion was the new strategic planning committee. Dr. Alyssa McCloud, Vice President for Enrollment Management and co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, and sophomore diplomacy major and SGA at-large senator Stefan Ferreira, shared the committee findings and asked for feedback from students and faculty.
McCloud explained that the strategic planning process deals with “big picture goals and objectives” for Seton Hall.
Also McCloud and Ferreira talked about the six themes of the working groups that make up the strategic plan.
These themes were academic vision, student success, Catholic mission, institutional culture, attract and retain the satisfaction of faculty and staff and strategic direction and sustainability
After McCloud and Ferriera talked about the strategic plan, students and faculty gave feedback on the plan and raised any questions or concerns they had.
Throughout this part of the town hall meeting, many issues were brought up by students and faculty. Some of the biggest points were about sustainability, accessibility and transparency when it comes to finances.
Accessibility was brought up multiple times during the town hall. One student asked for a follow up on an issue he brought up at the last town hall about Mooney Hall being inaccessible and about CAPS being located on the second floor of Mooney.
A representative of student services responded to this question. She said that currently student services, facilities and SGA members are discussing ways to move resource offices like CAPS and the career center into more accessible places. There are ongoing conversations on how to make this change happen.
Multiple students also brought up concerns about environmental sustainability.
One student asked about Seton Hall’s long-term goals for becoming a more environmentally sustainable institution and mentioned that many competing universities have made environmental sustainability a main priority.
Another issue that was brought up many times during the town hall meeting was the transparency and communication about where tuition money is going.
Ferriera gave a student’s perspective on this lack of communication and transparency about tuition money and school finances in general.
“There is a lack of trust because we don’t know where the money goes or where it comes from,” Ferriera said. “I talked to several students this week who even said that they think our tuition money goes to the athletics department, which is not true.
“But how are we supposed to know that because we aren’t getting itemized cost breakdowns, we are not getting pie charts about where our tuition goes. This naturally leaves opportunity and an open door for students to mistrust the university because we don’t know where eighty-three percent of the operating budget goes which is our tuition.”
“So, I think there’s a really great opportunity to be more transparent, to build trust with students, instead of letting us make our own fantasies and rumors about where our tens of thousands of dollars go.” said Ferreira.
These were some of the most talked-about issues, but students and faculty voiced many other concerns as well. Availability of classes, research opportunities, more diversity and inclusion especially with LGBTQ+ students, and better benefits for Gourmet Dining Service (GDS) staff were among some of the other issues brought up.
SGA President Rishi Shah spoke after the town hall meeting about his biggest takeaways from the night. He talked about how he has been to eight town halls and the last two town hall meetings have been some of the most successful, especially when it comes to student and faculty turnout.
“I just think that the turnout and the conversation was the biggest highlight,” Shah said. “I also think having direct input from this townhall on the strategic planning process is amazing because this is going to be ultimately brought to the board of regents and implementation will be taking place next year, so we basically in a way helped shape the university’s future after this town hall today.”
Genevieve Krupcheck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.