Student management

Local News: Restoration plans forum discusses student concerns (2/17/22)

Associate Vice President of Student Life Bruce Skinner presents to students at an open forum on the meal plan Feb. 15. The forum was organized in response to student concerns about meal plan changes for the fall 2022 semester.

Photo by Madison Abanathie

University administrators held an open forum for students at the University Center on February 15, following student concerns about proposed changes to the meal plan.

The proposed changes were first brought to the attention of students at the February 7 meeting of the Student Government Association (SGA). The students were quick to comment on the private Living at Southeast Facebook group, citing a lack of communication, dietary restrictions and cost as concerns.

Associate Vice President of Student Life Bruce Skinner posted an announcement on the forum in Living at Southeast on February 14, stating that he and Vice President of Student Enrollment and Success Management Debbie Below would be able to answer students’ questions during the event.

SGA Senators David Oliver and Sarah St. John, along with Chief of Staff Alex Auck and University Affairs Committee Chair Joel Philpott, were on hand at the forum to ask questions of their own and help clarify questions from fellow students. .

Philpott said he understood the changes better and felt more comfortable with the plan.

“[The administration] don’t have the bad intention that some students may think they have,” Philpott said. “They’re not there to generate profit for themselves, they’re not there as a business tactic. … They really care about what the students have to say.

Below opened the forum with a conversation to assess how and where students are using their meal plans on campus.

Skinner moved on to the presentation, which included information about the meal plan and changes to dining locations. Below, the prices associated with the Fall 2022 Meal Plans are not final and pricing is subject to confirmation by the Board of Regents.

Block locations will still have all-you-can-eat options, and Towers Landing will include a vegetarian and vegan station that Skinner hopes to integrate into St. Vincent’s Commons. Plans for Rowdy’s include keeping the salad station and grill and adding a bowl of rice and loaded sandwich options.

Skinner and Below attended the February 14 SGA meeting to help clear up any confusion or questions the senators and executive council had as a result of the previous meeting. Philpott said Feb. 7 was about introducing the changes and starting a dialogue with students. He said the discussion “took on a life of its own” after the meeting.

Students on the forum said their anger stemmed mainly from the fact that students had not been included in the conversation from the start. Participant Connor McElwee expressed frustration that students were not included in the discussion.

“A big part of the source of our frustrations is that we didn’t feel like we were asked before all of this happened,” McElwee said. “Now that this is happening, it feels like our voices haven’t been heard or don’t matter.”

Below they studied this type of plan for a few years and used the University of Arkansas as a model. She also said it’s something Chartwells worked on with them and not something they pushed.

“They went back to student government [on Feb. 14] — they weren’t anticipating this last week,” Philpott said. “They really care about what the students have to say and the opinions of the students, and really felt they should repeat it or address any concerns that might arise from the plan.”

Skinner also addressed student concern that approximately 22 resident assistants (RAs) were the only students interviewed. Skinner said different groups were surveyed on campus and RA surveys were given as an example during the Feb. 7 presentation.

“So the 22 RAs, that one can be put squarely on my shoulders,” Skinner said. “That was used as an example, and it was by no means the only population that was used. It was just one that was picked up, and when the presentation was made at [Student Government]it has been highlighted as an example.

Skinner and Below spent the rest of the forum time answering original student questions they didn’t already have, as well as new questions or points of confusion students had about the new presentation.

“When we’ve explained this to many students, the comfort level increases,” Skinner said. “And some students, who just a week ago were very judgmental, are like, ‘OK, now I understand value better.'”

Skinner said they plan to hold more forums in the future, as he understands that not all students can attend this one. He said they wanted to have a forum as soon as possible after SGA and time available at the University Center.

“Of course, with any change comes concern and questions, whether that change is good or bad,” Philpott said. “I think a lot of the information that was said to [the SGA meeting on Feb. 7] maybe it hasn’t been clarified in the best answer, but over time they have certainly done their best to help clarify and really reiterate the true details of this plan.

To see the Arrow livestream on the forum, click here. Redhawk Dining Advisors is a student group that works with Chartwells throughout the school year. For more information, contact Alicia Ticer at [email protected]