By: Kevin McDonnell
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – On April 11, NU students gathered together in Dunleavey for the University’s last town hall of the year. However, this Town Hall was different from the others this semester. Students found themselves face to face with administrators giving the whole event a stronger air of formality. This represents the last in a series of Town Halls implemented by Cheyenne Freely during her tenure as student body president.
Although Niagara is a small university, it can sometimes be incredibly difficult for students and administrators to collaborate effectively. “If we can communicate with them (administrators) what needs to change we can get on the same page and feel that our voices matter,” said Nick Graham student body Vice President.
During the Town Hall, administrators took the opportunity to update students on concerns brought up at previous meetings. Amongst the concerns raised were the issue of mice in the residence halls across campus. Jason Jakubowski, the Dean of Students, noted that he had taken the last few weeks walking the perimeter of all the buildings with Facility Services. The hope is that over the course of the next few weeks the University will be taking steps to make the buildings inaccessible from the outside to mice. In addition, they will continue the process of trapping any mice found within the residences.
Chris Sheffield Vice President of Student Affairs along with Daniel McMann the Facility Planner took the time to lay out the Master Plan before it ultimately goes to the Board of Trustees to be voted on. Sheffield was clear to mention how important it was to not just present the Master Plan, but to reach out to students for comments. “The NUSGA Town Hall meetings provide a critical opportunity to share information, but more importantly, to listen. These forums gave voice to student concerns and allowed NUSGA to work directly with administration to find answers and solutions.”
Despite an effort by the University to reach out to students, student participation in these events has been lackluster. These types of events are only as successful as the number of students who come and get engaged. However, getting students to want to come to events has always been a challenge.
In an interview with Freely afterwards she echoed similar sentiments to that of Graham and Sheffield. “I think that having an administrator Town Hall was a really great opportunity for students to hear updates on projects and concerns directly from the people handling those concerns.” It was ultimately Freely’s idea to bring back this type of forum. As she graduates and moves on to the next chapter of her life, we shouldn’t let this part of her legacy be lost. Oftentimes we may feel helpless to create change on a grand scale. However, if we all took the time to participate more frequently in our community, I think we would find that change can and should happen.