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Student Senate Town Hall Question and Answer Session

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On Feb. 7, Student Senate hosted a Town Hall style meeting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Members of the Senior Staff were invited to answer student questions during the weekly Student Senate meeting. The panel included President Margee Ensign;  Brenda Bretz, vice president for effectiveness and inclusivity; Brontè Burleigh-Jones, vice president for finance & administration; George Stroud, dean and vice president of student life; Cathy Davenport, intermin vice president for enrollment; Angie Harris, associate dean of students; and Neil Weissman, provost. Questions not included in this issue of The Dickinsonian will appear in subsequent issues.

Q: For the new parking fee, can you park in every Dickinson lot after paying the fee?

Burleigh-Jones: I don’t know right now but there are 1,200 spots within lots on campus for people to park in. There is a committee that is determining how the plan will be implemented.

Q: What steps are you taking to make sure African-American students and others are safe within the community, aside from DPS, for people who go outside of the Dickinson campus given the presence of the KKK in Carlisle?

Ensign: I wish I could say all of you will be safe in life… It’s a very challenging world we live in. Carlisle is a very safe community and we monitor that very closely, but we can’t guarantee people will always be safe. Be self-aware of the challenges you face. DPS has close ties with CPD. Put the DPS number on your phone or if you need police, call 911. When you go out, be careful. Go with other students if you’re going out at night. [Regarding the email] we wanted to make you aware of what is happening in the broader community. 

Q: I recognize, upon reading the dining section of Dickinson’s website, that the requirement to be on a meal plan has the intention of building community on campus. However, I am someone who loves cooking and prefers to build community through cooking more intimate meals for my friends and residents in my building. I end up using veggies from the Snar and the farmers market in order to make doing so more affordable. Do you foresee an option for students to opt out of the meal plan if they have a valid reason? 

Burleigh-Jones: Students can opt out for medical reasons.

Q: Would the no-show fee be enforced for students seeking counseling? Students generally go to the counseling center for symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and that can inhibit students from sometimes getting up and going to these meetings. Is it fair to fine students for these uncontrollable anxieties? 

Stroud: The Wellness Center is working on specifics for how the no-show fee is going to be laid out. They are taking into consideration special circumstances. The goal of this fee is not to fine students but decrease the number of no shows.

Q: What will be done with additional health fees?

Burleigh-Jones: The funds will be used to cover the $1 million of overages we are currently experiencing from the Wellness Center.

Q: Is the school making plans to have students involved in the process of moving community service to the Center for Civic Learning and Action?

Stroud: Gary Kirk and Donna Hughes are discussing how they will combine the two. Students will be included within these decisions and plans. These conversations are just starting because Gary Kirk recently arrived on campus.

Ensign: The transition will not happen until this summer.

Q: I am concerned about safety in Carlisle because of the KKK’s effort to recruit people to join their community. President Ensign doesn’t seem to have an answer, but I am willing to help figure out how to help students of color. DPS can do a better job—I have called to ask for an escort home and they refused. I would love to help brainstorm solutions.

Ensign: I would love too, Titi. At my previous institution, the students put together a peace council. I suggest we do this at Dickinson and would welcome the opportunity to work with you on this. We can also explore expanding the escort system.

Q: Regarding the graduate initiative, you said that undergraduate resources will not be allocated to graduate program. Does that mean only certain undergraduate students who can pay out of pocket be able to access them?

Ensign: It is brand new so we are still figuring out the logistics.

Weissman: As it stands, we are not discussing financial aid for the courses because we are just beginning. Enrollment will be fewer than 10 but if it gets up and running and generates revenue, I’m confident we will discuss the possibility of financial aid. For example, we have signed an MOU to make Harvard Business School online courses available for students who wish to do them separate from their course work at Dickinson (we do not grant credit to the HBS courses).  We signed the agreement because it makes Dickinson students taking the courses eligible to apply for financial aid through Harvard.

Q: How is the international application pool doing this year? What is Dickinson doing to increase the number of international students?

Davenport: We are working to increase travel and strategic planning globally, making sure to cover both international and domestic territories. International applications are up slightly, even with the concern some international students have about coming to the U.S. for education. Our application numbers are comparable to last year.

Ensign: I came back from a Bloomberg meeting for higher education and this was a big part of the discussion. We are happy to be up a little bit which is not the average at this point. We are working hard not only through traveling internationally but talking to international students in high schools and increasing partnerships with high schools.

Q: How is the effectiveness of the alcohol education program used in conduct sanctions measured? Now that there will be a new fee implemented for students to incur if they are sanctioned, I am concerned that people will have less incentive to call DPS because they do not want an additional fee. Will there be an amnesty policy for people to call on themselves? 

Harris: The educational program is called Basics and it is research based and deemed effective. The sanction typically is used after multiple offenses of alcohol use. There is a low number of students who have been required to use the program. The amnesty policy will still be in place. This fee helps to continue to provide the Basics program.

Stroud: We are already sending people to these classes. These are for students who are repeatedly violating alcohol policy and we want to make sure people have this information. The current amnesty program will stay in place and we will look into an amnesty policy for people reporting themselves.

Q: Will the cost of meal plans change?

Burleigh-Jones: There will be an annual increase of meal plans of 3.5 percent.

Q: Has the college had conversations with the local Jewish community about the hiring of a new full-time Rabbi?

Stroud: At this point we haven’t talked to the local Jewish community, but we have gotten feedback from Jewish members on campus. We believe this can be something that can work with Jewish community and having the local Jewish community involved is something we will work on.

Q: You announced changes to how the Kove operates – currently the Kove is certified by an agency in Baltimore. For students who do keep kosher, how would the new Rabbi be able to guarantee the same level of certification? 

Stroud: Once the Rabbi gets on campus, they will help us determine what program we will use. We are moving away from the Star K program.

Q: Will there be gender-neutral bathrooms in the HUB full time?

Bretz: There is a formal proposal about that coming before the President’s Commission on Inclusivity. We will push it out to appropriate decision-makers of the college.

Q: A flyer was posted in the men’s bathroom in the HUB last semester that made several claims, namely that sexual harassment misconduct investigations have lasted longer than six months while the attacker remains on campus, and also that Dickinson College did not accurately report the number of Title IX cases ending in a guilty finding in the annual security and fire safety report in 2018.

Bretz: That flyer contained inaccurate information, however we should challenge information and not allow the community to accept the claims as fact. The Clery report is complete and accurate.

Q: There are some DPS officers that describe their work as paramilitary. To what extent is Dickinson bettering relationships with DPS and students?

Stroud: When I first got here I had a conversation with Chief Danser and my view of policing is through a community lens—officers walking around to get to know students, when police officers and students know each other then there is a different relationship that’s there. How do we make sure to create this environment that DPS is there to help you? On the other hand, if DPS sees something going on they have to address that issue, I know they are working to address that.

Q: Club funding has declined drastically in the amount of funding that clubs receive. There is a lack of social engagement on this campus, campus feels dull. During my three years here, there have been times when the Club Soccer team did not have the funding to play on a field. What are you going to do about club funding for the general student? We can’t go to the Kline to play soccer or basketball because it is reserved for varsity athletics. There is a lack of space for recreational activity.

Chris Jones ’19, Student Senate President: 

The timeline for club budgeting was changed to happen earlier with the intention to ensure that there is more communication between current club leaders and newly elected exec. Hopefully, this will allow more time for budgets to be thought-out and sent to Senate so that we can work with you to guarantee the budgets that are approved receive as much funding as possible. Additionally, Senate faced a $200,000 budget cut for this current year, which affected all aspects of our budget.

Stroud: This is related to a broader issue of student space which I’ve been looking at since I’ve arrived. This is the first time I’m hearing about recreational space—a group is looking into how we can create social spaces on campus 

Q: I’m a vegetarian and Dining Services is a bit lacking in options for vegetarians, particularly in the Caf. In the Devils Den, would the college be open to giving healthier and vegetarian options, such as fruit?

Burleigh-Jones: I will pass this concern on to Errol Huffman.

Q: How much control does the college have in future planning of large class sizes in enrollment? 

Vice President Davenport: Modeling for enrollment is an art and a science. Admissions has predictions and projections on how many students will be yielded. With the incoming class in spring 2015, our actual numbers were way over our projected numbers. Predictive modeling relies on historic data to inform decisions. We are using that information as well as our interactions with applicants to assess likelihood of enrollment.

Ensign: We have put into place a sufficient team to deal with modeling.

Q: Is there a possibility to share information on how DPS officers are trained to interact with Dickinson students or how are students trained on how to interact with DPS officers? Is there a possibility for giving out guidelines to the campus on how DPS officers and students should expect to interact with each other? 

Stroud: Officers are trained on how to interact with students. Also, this is helpful to hear that there are moments where students have issues with how they’ve interacted with them.  

Q: Student groups have some challenges with working with CASE in scheduling spaces. 

Burleigh-Jones: Making sure that organizations are registered with the college allows for the process to happen quickly. I will check with CASE to see which spaces are not offered for students to book. 

Q: Are there any counselors of color in the Wellness Center? 

Stroud: It is hard to recruit therapists of color in Central Pa. We are making efforts to have a diverse pool when there is an opening in the Wellness Center.

Q: There is a lot conversation about the future of the Wellness Center and the Caf, but what are the college’s initiatives to deal with issues of overcrowding currently? What are we doing now to remedy the issues that current students are facing in the short term?  

Stroud: There are a lot of folks that want the services of counseling in the Wellness Center. Last semester there were two vacancies in counseling. This current semester we hired two additional counselors to help alleviate the current issues. We may have to do more group counseling to meet the needs of students. The main priority was making sure we had a full staff. 

Burleigh-Jones: Give us a few days to talk through issues with the Caf. I wasn’t made aware of the challenge until 4:30 this afternoon. 

Q: Will next year’s seniors all have access to apartment accommodation?

Burleigh-Jones: Yes, we anticipate the same availability for apartments for seniors.  


Q: Will Seniors have priority parking? 

Burleigh-Jones: We have not discussed this possibility. I will pass it onto the committee.

Q: I understand why the Caf may have increased traffic and I understood that this is not anticipated to be a problem next academic year, but are you planning on doing anything this semester to ensure that all students have the time and space to each between classes?

Burleigh-Jones: We are currently looking at current traffic patterns to identify potential solutions.

Q: What are you doing about the fact that the meat on campus comes from factory farms and there are vast quantities of meat at the caf, which is very unsustainable?

Burleigh-Jones: We source from a series of local farms for our meat products and pride ourselves on local sourcing. In addition, we have increased our plant-based protein options.

Q: Is there a concern that the new housing prices may increase socio-economic segregation on campus, and if so, what is being done to remedy that concern? 

Burleigh-Jones: The college has been making, and will continue to make, investments in its entire housing stock, not just the rooms at the higher end of the scale. The intent is to offer a wide variety of desirable housing options throughout the price spectrum. This includes the new residence hall which has many standard room options.  

Q: Why don’t tour guides get paid? Many other schools pay tour guides with some of the highest salaries offered at their campus. Some students at Dickinson cannot afford to offer their time without compensation. By offering payment, more students from lower economic backgrounds could potentially offer their insights to the Liberty Cap Society. This would help promote Dickinson’s inclusivity efforts. It seems fair to offer tour guides some form of payment, even if it’s only $5-10 per week. After all, one hour of a tour guide’s time can result in nearly $280,000 for the college after four years of tuition since they play a huge role in helping prospective students decide to enroll.

Davenport: In Fall 2004, we moved from paid guides (10-12) to volunteers. At the time, the goal was to include more students (we currently have just over 100 volunteers) who would represent a more diverse student body and more diverse student experiences as well as student pride for his/her college. Having volunteers and not paid spokespersons (which is what counselors and families have positively commented on) also provides a more authentic experience. Students are volunteering 2 hours per week with an additional 2-4 hours if they assist on a Saturday or special visit day. We will definitely take another look at the program.

Q: Are there major differences in procedure, consequences, and education for students involved in the conduct process for violations having to do with cannabis? If so, how can those differences be justified or addressed?

Stroud: There is one significant difference in how alcohol and marijuana are addressed through the Dickinson conduct process. Lower level alcohol violations may be resolved through the non-formal process. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.  Currently, accusations of violating the drug policy by using and/or possessing marijuana are resolved administratively. The reason for the distinction is that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania classifies marijuana as an illegal substance.

Q: If the Basics program is truly about a concern for the well-being of the students, specifically students thought to have a legitimate substance issue, what is the educational purpose of charging a fee at this time?

Stroud: It is accurate that Basics is issued as an educational sanction for those students who violate the alcohol policy, however, there is a fee associated with implementing this tool.  

Q: As the state moves towards marijuana legalization and Dickinson continues to treat marijuana use on campus differently than underage drinking (quicker sanctions) how does the school foresee their policies changing? 

Stroud: Marijuana is still considered an illegal substance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If marijuana becomes legalized in Pennsylvania, the college will then review the policy.

Q: Does Dickinson view marijuana use as more harmful? Please explain why or why not?

Stroud: Marijuana is still considered an illegal substance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Q: Can you define cases reported?

Stroud: Reported cases are those that the college has been provided with information indicating that an incident may have occurred. Reported and investigated cases are when, after becoming aware of a potential incident, the college opens an investigation to gather information on the potential incident. At the conclusion of an investigation, if a case is found to be true, there will be a review of the evidence to determine accountability.

Q: As I understand from VP Stroud’s presentation special accommodation housing would cost the standard double price regardless of the layout and/or location of the special accommodations housing. Would this encourage students to continue applying for accommodation housing and as a result, further misuse the system given the current perception of students taking apartments but seeking medical permissions?

Stroud: The college believes that our students have a high level of integrity.  However, there are procedures in place to review the accommodations and make sure that student needs are being met appropriately.

Q: There was a comment about recreational space being available for club sports. As a varsity athlete, I appreciate the participation of held space to practice but as a club athlete as well I understand the frustration of practice times being at 9 p.m. and getting cut to one practice a week due to varsity athletics. It was mentioned this was the first time this issue was heard but it is a problem for multiple club sports.

Stroud: It has become clear that there are concerns about the lack of social space on campus. A committee has been assembled to examine this issue and make recommendations for change. We will also task that committee to consider how to best address recreational spaces. 

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Student Senate Town Hall Question and Answer Session