On Wednesday Oct. 10, President Eugene Cornacchia along with the Student Government Association hosted the bi-annual Presidential Open Forum to answer some of the most pressing questions about improving life on campus for students.
The Presidential Open Forum was an opportunity for students to raise their concerns to highest offices on campus. All students from undergraduates to graduates, from commuters to residents, and from freshman to seniors brought up many questions to the Presidential Cabinet and many got some answers.
The cabinet addressed the growing concern of the closures of Whelan and Gannon Hall. Frederick Bonato, Vice President of Academic Affairs, addressed the mold infestation within Whelan and Gannon, saying “We do know what kinds of molds are in Gannon”, later clarifying that they are not “deadly molds.”
Anthony Skevakis, Vice President of Student Affairs, addressed the question on when Whelan and Gannon will reopen.
“We don’t have a plan for a specific date” he explained. “I don’t have that yet.”
The answer comes as a major disappointment to many residents who are desperate for concrete answers from the administration.
According to Skevakis, they are awaiting for more information on “what the type of cleaning remediation needs to be done,” and from there two weeks will be dedicated to “evaluating the process.”
Bonato also mentioned to his knowledge that no students got sick as a result of the mold.
The floor was opened to questions from the student body, the first of which came from senior Melanie Shiwkumar, a frequent attendee of the forum who brought up a question about the new mandatory meal plan set in place this year.
“The fee is not reasonable,” she stated. “...a meal plan that is solely $100 in Munch Money provides more value than a meal plan that is $60 in Munch Money and five swipes.”
She also brought up a problem where the charge for the meal plan appeared on the tuition bill as “room and board”.
“We can absolutely make a plan that’s $100 all FLEX, that’s not a problem to make it so that it’s more variable to students,” said Skevakis, also promising to work with finance and IT to resolve the billing discrepancy.
One junior student brought attention to the accessibility of feminine hygienic products in some facilities on campus, stating how some buildings “don’t have the dispensers and the ones that do, more often than not, are empty.”
She raised concern about how some dispensers require one to pay 25 cents for a product and about “...having [disposal] bins in the stalls in the women’s restrooms, because not all of have it.”
“I’ve had several times where I’ve gone to class and I can’t throw my product immediately because there is nothing in the stall, it is just the toilet,” said the student.
The cabinet was not aware of the issue, with Bonato promising to look into the matter.
Skevakis also responded, “Health services offers them for free, and a little known secret; if you were to stop by Leadership and Engagement, they have plenty there too.”
Other topics discussed include, issues raised about shuttle times, the poor condition of the workout equipment in the Recreational Life Center and the possibility of Dining Services offering more options for vegans and vegetarians, especially on weekends.
“I don’t think my concern was properly answered," Shiwkumar said after the Forum. "But I do think I got more people involved in this discussion and made them aware of how this [mandatory commuter meal plan] is a problem.”
Senior Jasy Lata had a problem with how the Forum is managed and run, referring to the length of the Forum.
“There wasn’t enough time to address all of those concerns,” state Lata.
She brings up another issue about how her question was answered.
When she asked if the mold tests for Whelan and Gannon Halls can be made public for students, noting an issue when Bonato answered the question saying how he “wouldn’t want to subject anyone to those reports.”
Feeling that her question were brushed aside, Lata states that “[the way he answered] was kind of dismissive, and “[this manner of answering] happened several times during the Forum.”
Although some students felt their questions weren’t answered properly, students like Shiwkumar, as previously quoted, stated they felt content that they had an opportunity to make their subjects known to the wider student body, in hopes of resolving their problem.