BY ALLYSON HUNTOON '19
On the evening of Tuesday, Feb 28, MHC Senators could be found sitting in four separate working groups. Each of these groups aims to address specific topics of student interest: AccessAbility Services, first generation and low income students, Facilities Management and the Career Development Center. The goal of these groups is to connect students with the respective offices regarding their specific concerns in order to generate positive change. Tuesday’s meeting updated attendees on the progress and concerns of each working group and introduced the directors and officers from each of the college departments addressed.
Before the working groups presented, SGA President Marwa Mikati ’17 provided administrative updates. She explained the policy regarding audio and video recording in classes that was recently passed by the College and states that students may only record classes if issued a letter from AccessAbility Services granting permission to do so. The professor must also be aware that the class is being recorded. She also highlighted the SGA Leadership Retreat that will occur this Saturday, March 4, which is open to all Mount Holyoke students. It takes place off campus, but transportation will be provided. More information and the link to RSVP are available in the campus-wide SGA email sent out Feb. 28. Mikati also informed attendees about a memorandum regarding transportation. The proposal requests that the College provide shuttles to Boston and Hartford Airports to pick students up after breaks at a lower rate than other transportation services. This is based on students’ expressed needs, and the student body will have an opportunity to provide input before the final proposal is presented to the College administration.
The first working group to present focused on AccessAbility Services. Lillia Baird ’18, senator from Jhumka, explained that the group is primarily focusing on improving communication between Access-Ability services and students. “It’s not uncommon to have difficulties when seeking services,” she said. The representatives from AccessAbility have been “very receptive” to the concerns of the working group according to Baird. Professor Amber Douglas, who has been overseeing recent transitions in the office of AccessAbility, worked with the group.
The working group focusing on first generation and low income students presented next. The group presented many of the questions that students have about their financial aid statements, ling taxes and paying for college health insurance. One solution to the confusion, according to the group, would be to provide more information to students about these topics. The group also spoke about some of the concerns of first generation college students, suggesting more resources for these students to meet each other and receive peer guidance. They shared that there is an existing group at Mount Holyoke called First Generation and Low Income Partnership, which functions under the student organization C.A.U.S.E. This group helps students of these demographics become involved with a community. This working group met with officers from Financial Services to discuss each issue presented.
The Facilities Management group detailed students’ issues with the lack of available drinking water in residence halls, specifically those with dining halls which are locked overnight and provide no outside water fountain. To solve this issue, the group is in communication with Facilities Management, whose director, Paul Breen, spoke with the group. Liz Brown ’20, senator from MacGregor Hall, explained that the group is also working on ways that they may address student concerns regarding laundry costs. Their current plan is to send a survey out to students assessing their laundry habits and present a proposal to Financial Services requesting a monetary allotment for each student to allow for a certain amount of laundry loads, instead of payments out-of-pocket.
The final group to present addressed the Career Development Center. Students’ concerns in this area were mainly related to job and internship opportunities. The lack of variety and availability of opportunities provided by the CDC was an issue, according to the group. They offered the example that many of the advertised internships relate to nance and business, yet students studying the arts and majors such as English hope to learn about more relevant opportunities. In addition, the group discussed the possibility of increased transportation to standardized testing sites and the creation of more mentoring opportunities. The group met with an officer from the CDC.
After preliminary research, each working group connected with the department with which their issues concerned. The next step for the groups is to create memorandums, according to chair of senate, Camille Gladieux ’18. Some of the memorandums created by working groups, like those that presented Tuesday, have had success in the past, such as those addressing parking and dining options. Some memorandums are more ideological and take more time, as their focuses range from very specific to very broad. “Change can happen in different forms. This is the more bureaucratic form of it,” said Gladieux.
After the meeting adjourned, dean of students Marcella Hall reflected on the topics presented by the senators and their groups. She explained that it was helpful for her to hear all of the concerns, especially those that intersected with student life. Dean Hall expressed that she took particular note of the issues concerning residence halls, the experiences of first generation students and with AccessAbility Services, as these relate to her department. “I think that myself and the officers of the College are incredibly grateful for this process,” she said of the senators’ presentations, adding that the working groups did a great job of communicating student needs. In many cases, she explained, there are parallels between what students and the administration are working on. “This is an incredible asset to us, this kind of partnership where we get to brainstorm how to make Mount Holyoke better ... We’re in it together.”