By Benjamin Solomon, Staff Writer
On Tuesday, November 7, Student Government Association held its annual Shake the Ship forum. This is an opportunity for students to voice opinions and ask questions to a panel of administrative leadership from departments across campus including Public Safety, Dining, and Student Affairs. As the event was hosted by SGA, the forum was moderated by SGA Secretary Tyler Varda.
One popular topic of discussion was variety of food. Some students complained of a lack of vegetarian or vegan food available, while some complained of a lack of food from different cultures.
A student representing Hillel, a Jewish organization on campus, specifically mentioned that dining services does not provide kosher food for events.
Jeff Augustine, director of Campus Services, assured students that despite their concerns about vegetarian food, Chartwell’s had given the campus an A+ score for vegetarian food. He also said that because the Marketplace (AKA Res) is old, they are unable to fit a larger variety of foods there.
As for Hillel’s issue, Augustine explained that Chartwell’s can waive their exclusivity agreement in cases where they cannot provide what is needed. After filling out the correct forms, Chartwell’s can work with an outside vendor to get Hillel’s kosher food, for example.
One student introduced the issue that the blinds in the on-campus apartments are see-through, especially at night. Pete Duffy, head of Facilities, said he had never heard of this issue. The Director of Campus Housing and Residential Life, Lucinda Poudrier-Aaronson, assured the audience that the blinds had been tested for this when they were bought, but that she would look into it.
Another student expressed concern about the level of diversity and representation of women and minorities in faculty and staff. The 5/6 white, all male panel responded that there was plenty of diversity but that they were working for more.
Mohammed Karim, the Provost, explained that speed of increasing diversity depends on how quickly professors leave, which means that it is slow.
A student also asked what the rainbow flag on the poles at the front of campus means – does it stand for LGBTQ or for diversity? The student directed this question specifically at Chancellor Johnson and Assistant Chancellor John Hoey of Public Affairs. Johnson did not acknowledge the question, leaving the question to Public Affairs.
Hoey began by saying the rainbow flag was raised 25 years ago and that it means different things to different people. He did not say what it meant to him or the school. Hoey said that it was a great question, and “Good for you for bringing this up.”
The student who originally inquired about the rainbow flag explained their view that it is important to know what the flag stands for in order to explain it to new and prospective students. Additionally, they claimed that requests to hang a Black Lives Matter flag had been denied for the reason that the rainbow flag represents diversity, thus encompassing its purpose.
Hoey said that there would be some sort of open meeting to discuss the BLM flag, but did not give a date.
A different student came to the microphone to say that they had interviewed the person who pushed for the rainbow flag’s adoption, and that the flag’s purpose is LGBTQ rather than diversity.
Varda responded that he did not know about the purpose of the flag, and decided to change the discussion away from the flag.
During this flag discussion, several members of the audience decided to clap, presumably to show their support. SGA leadership shut them down and told the audience to hold their applause until the end. One student senator, Katie Lovett, went as far as to take the microphone to apologize to the administration for the students’ applause.
This did not appear to apply later on, when the crowd erupted in unrestricted applause after a veteran was thanked for his service at the conclusion of discussing veterans’ affairs.
There was further discussion of infrastructure issues like lights and Ring Road’s lack of sidewalks. In particular, parking and parking decals were a popular topic. Students and the administration are united in that they feel that the parking passes cost too much.
Duffy of Facilities explained that expanding Ring Road to build a sidewalk would cost seven million dollars, and that lighting across campus has been upgraded but not expanded. Lovett joined the conversation again, blaming students for not buying parking passes, driving up the costs.
This event is a great opportunity to discuss a range of issues relevant to the UMass Dartmouth community. If you have questions about goings-on on campus, or complaints to air, Shake the Ship is a good chance to do so.