(Image Designed By Editor-in-Chief Roxanne Hepburn with Photographs from Volunteer Writer Emma Bowser and Staff Photographer Lilly Lafleur)
Volunteer Writer: Connor Sullivan
The Student Government Association hosted its annual “Shake the Ship” event in the Claire T. Carney Library’s Living Room this past Thursday, October 12th, providing a forum for students to speak directly with the administration.
Sponsored by the SGA, it featured a panel of administrators answering burning questions posed by student body members. These members ranged from club leaders to student government members to regular students.
The SGA considers this event to be one of their most important. As explained by President Marshall MacDonald, “We just encourage people to voice their opinions to us and to administration. I think it’s a great opportunity for people to do that.”
The event preludes another annual event held in the spring: the Leadership Forum. This event will address questions left unanswered at Shake the Ship and allow students to question the SGA directly.
The five panelists present at the event were Chief Diversity Officer David A. Gomes, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Kimberly Scott, Dean of Student Belonging Kevin Hamilton, University Police Lieutenant Damon Gomes, and Vice Chancellor for Administration & Facilities David Gingerella.
Additionally, there were members of other departments in the audience who helped answer questions. These included Interim Provost Ramprasad Balasubramanian, Director of Housing and Residential Education Lydia Johnson, Accountant for SAIL Maria Antao, and Resident District Manager of Dining Services Amanda Rotondi.
The event was composed of two parts. First, Corresponding Secretary Doreen Darko presented the panel with a list of fifteen questions prepared by the SGA. Afterward, members of the audience were invited to ask their own.
Darko divided the SGA’s questions into several categories: Infrastructure, Safety, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Parking and Transportation.
The questions posed by the students were primarily interested in the same subjects.
On infrastructure, Darko asked what impacts the construction planned for the LARTs and CVPA buildings would have in the coming year and what the next steps for traffic safety would be.
Several students echoed these concerns. One asked how these projects would impact office hours. Another asked if there were plans to improve the sidewalks for students.
David Gingerella addressed these questions.
Regarding the projects for LARTs and CVPA, he stated that “We’re in the planning stages of both projects” and that construction wouldn’t begin until next summer. Until then, “you’ll see very little changes.” He shared that they will ensure “all of the functions will continue to operate”; however, “more than likely there will be some inconvenience.”
For UMD’s traffic infrastructure, he explained that the current measures, including the speed humps and speed signs, were recommended by traffic experts commissioned by the Chancellor to slow traffic. He said they are “open to conversations and/or suggestions for other improvements through the SGA, GSS, parking department.”
Moving on to safety, Darko asked what was being done to improve safety in Spruce and Balsam and ensure that incident reports were appropriately handled.
Lieutenant Gomes stated that any student who found the police’s work unsatisfactory could “go to the police department, file a complaint there with any supervisor…we’ll take your complaint seriously.”
Gomes also mentioned the additional safety measures they’ve introduced. “We’ve added over 80 cameras over this past year,” adding that “We’re considering adding extra Securitas officers in each lobby of Balsam and Spruce to assist with checking in…so you should see more officers in that area.”
Kimberly Scott also chimed in, stating students needed to promote safety by ensuring all guests follow security measures to enter the halls. She urged students to report any violations.
From there, Darko moved on to academic affairs. The biggest concern was the closure of the STAR Store. Over the summer, the University announced that The STAR Store, a facility hosting many CVPA courses, would shut down due to a lack of state funding. This change resulted in over twenty classes suddenly needing to be relocated.
UMD’s handling of this was criticized by many students, with many reporting their supplies and works being damaged during the transfer and lacking the space and equipment needed to finish their work.
The SGA’s senator for CVPA, Fiona Marques, expressed her concerns for the graduate programs, stating, “I am really worried and wondering what is happening in the future regarding their advertising and funding for the master’s programs.”
This also concerned SGA Vice President Gent Haviari. He argued, “although I can’t hold the school accountable for the closing, I certainly hold the school responsible for the process after the closing.”
Interim Provost Ramprasad Balasubramanian took the mic and assured students, “We’re 100% committed to supporting and growing all the programs in CVPA.”
He argued that the state not approving funding was at the last minute and occurred during ongoing negotiations.
Despite this, he assured that nearly all the courses have been relocated to campus and claimed to have been working with the Dean of CVPA to set up a fund to compensate students for supplies lost in the transition. He also assured that leadership continues to work with faculty to provide the best solutions possible for students.
After the last question, Scott informed the audience that time was up but that she would remain to answer any lingering questions. She also encouraged everyone to bring their questions to them anytime, stating, “You don’t need to wait for an event to have your questions answered.”
Those involved in the event were positive afterward. “I think the questions were excellent. The audience was very attentive,” said Gingerella.
Haviari shared this enthusiasm. “I thought this was really well done. It was awesome to see folks still come through. We had some new panelists, which was great. I thought some of the answers were very productive, especially the provost being here to answer some of the CVPA questions is super important…ultimately, I think this is one of our best events.”