Student Forum Report 2-22-2017

Last Wednesday’s MSSA meeting began with presentations from Vice President of Undergraduate Affairs Dr. Ginger Zierdt, Zoology Club president Taylor Heid, student John Neitge, and MNSU librarian Kellian Clink.

Dr. Zierdt spoke on plans for widespread reform of the student advising system at MNSU called “An Integrated Academic Advising Model.” Due to student concerns with the effectiveness of advising on campus, the issue was raised in MSSA during the 2008-2009 academic year. Dr. Zierdt says that the current proposal stems from that original decision by MSSA to establish a task force to address the issue. During her presentation, Dr. Zierdt touched on four critical issues.

1) The importance of fostering relationships between advisors and advisees.

2) The importance of advising students as early as possible. Dr. Zierdt would like to see students’ questions related to study abroad, transfer credits, and career options answered as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary wastes of student time and money. She even proposes that students be connected with an advisor before even taking their first class at MNSU.

3) The importance of connecting undecided students to advisors. Dr. Zierdt notes that confusion and dissatisfaction with advising is higher among undecided students. 4) The importance of training faculty to provide high-quality advising. Dr. Zierdt notes that both students and faculty have expressed dissatisfaction with the advising system, many faculty lamenting that they are not properly equipped to advise students effectively. A key feature of the plan is to create a centralized advising center where information between various campus departments and organizations can be shared to offer students optimal advice.

“We want to do right by you,” said Dr. Zierdt. “You’re paying a lot of money to come here. We want to give you the best service we possibly can.”

Zoology Club president Taylor Heid gave a presentation on the bee-friendly campus movement that she and her club are leading. She summarized the movement and made the case to the senators that MNSU should take action to attract bees to campus. She emphasized that the movement is focusing on educating MNSU students and faculty on the important role bees play in our world. She argues that the more educated a person is about bees, the more likely they are to save them. She noted that she has been in contact with Saint Catherine’s University and hopes to emulate bee-friendly initiatives that they have taken. Heid spent much of the presentation quelling fears about bee stings, an issue that had been raised at a prior MSSA meeting. She noted that MNSU should focus on attracting non-stinging species of bees and that areas with the most bees would be located on the outskirts of campus. Senators reacted positively to the presentation. “You are a powerhouse of environmentalism,” said President Faical Rayani to Heid. For more information on the bee-friendly movement, refer to the Feb. 2 Reporter article “Bee-friendly campus project aims to be friendly to bees.”

Student John Neitge expressed concern over the fact that an MNSU graduate assistant found guilty of violating the university sexual misconduct policy continues to teach students. He argued that punishment has not been sufficiently enforced. Dr. Zierdt commented from the gallery that the administration is looking into the issue immediately.

Librarian Kellian Clink announced a storytelling event taking place on Wednesday, March 29 from 7-8:30 p.m. Clink pointed to data from the JED Foundation that show that more than half of college students are stressed most or all of the time and that 45% of college students think that everyone else around them has it all figured out. “Storytelling is so important,” she argued. “It’s never been more critical that we understand each other’s stories.”

Katelynn Ogunfolami promoted the Black Student Union and Black Intelligent Gentlemen RSOs. She announced that a Black Student Union event featuring a dance and live speakers and performances will take place following the March 16 Pan-African Conference.

In his report, President Rayani announced his candidacy for president of Students United, the body of student government that represents all students in the Minnesota State system. He also mentioned a potential student fee increase that was brought up at the last Students United meeting. The fee, paid for each credit by all students in the Minnesota State system, may increase by either 5¢, 10¢, or 15¢. A 5¢ increase would produce an estimated $78,750 in additional annual revenue, 10¢ would produce $157,500, and 15¢ would produce $236,250. President Rayani noted that the fee has not been changed for over a decade. Senator Yulia Podorova noted that the 10¢ proposal was the most popular option among the representatives at the last Students United meeting. President Rayani brought up last Thursday’s Meet and Confer with MNSU President Richard Davenport. Meet and Confer is a monthly meeting between MNSU students as a bargaining unit and President Davenport. At the meeting, the Integrated Academic Advising Model was discussed, along with a massive, long-term plan to build new athletic facilities on campus. Rayani argued that the current facilities are far from adequate. Rayani also noted that there is one vacant position to be filled on the Elections Commission and that it may not be filled by anyone who will be running for office in this spring semester’s election.

Vice President Maria Ruiz noted in her report that 52 students have signed up for the Enterprise rental car service. She expressed disappointment that the number was not higher.

Speaker Fred de Ruiter announced in his report that he will be running for Vice President of Students United. He also noted that the RSO Committee is seeking someone to fill its Chair position. He also noted that MSSA would make an effort to rectify the situation brought up in John Neitge’s presentation.

Senator Peterson gave a report lamenting the gender disparity within the College of Allied Heath and Nursing. She cited the fact that in forty-five years of the dental hygiene program, there have only been three male students. She noted that while women are often encouraged to enter male-dominated programs, the opposite is not true. She hopes that that is reversed in the College of Allied Health and Nursing. She also mentioned an upcoming presentation on issues of race to be held March 31. Only students and faculty of the College of Allied Health and Nursing are permitted to attend.

Senator Abdul Aziz gave an update on the Student Affairs committee. He noted that Student Affairs has been and will be dealing with the following topics: funding of the Environmental Committee, a proposed off-campus Safe Walk program, an idea to make MNSU a bike-friendly campus, and the Maverick Adventures program.

Senator Martin announced that an inclusivity event inspired by the Feb. 1 MSSA open discussion on President Trump’s executive order suspending travel from seven countries will be held on April 10.

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