North Texas Daily

SGA first-year town hall addresses COVID-19, diversity concerns

SGA first-year town hall addresses COVID-19, diversity concerns

SGA first-year town hall addresses COVID-19, diversity concerns
February 22
15:07 2022

Students, faculty and staff filed into the Union’s Lyceum on the evening of Feb. 21 to attend a First-Year Town Hall put on by the Student Government Association Intern Program, which encouraged students to voice their experiences and concerns to administration. 

Speakers at the event included six representatives from different departments on campus. Questions anonymously sent in prior to the event were addressed throughout the town hall and students were given the opportunity to ask questions in person. 

One topic of concern for students was COVID-19. Each panelist described how their department has worked to make campus safe and accessible for all students. 

“We hope to continue to build on the virtual services that we are able to provide to students,” said Elizabeth With, senior vice president for Student Affairs. “We hired a staff member prior to COVID to work on virtual services within the career center and that position will soon be transitioning to helping more of our areas within the division of student affairs to be more online and more virtual.”

With said the university will continue to provide student services in various modalities.

Noting that the university is a minority-serving institution, an anonymous student asked if each panelist thought their department staff is reflective of the first-year student population in regards to racial identity. 

“For orientation and transition programs, we are getting there, and I’m proud of where we are going,” said Brittany Landau, assistant director of Orientation and Transition Programs. “Right now, 44 percent of our full-time staff identify as people of color. 44 percent isn’t great, but it’s better than what it was.”

With said her department is not representative of the student population and Student Affairs have a lot of work to do. 

“About 45 percent of our staff do represent a racial minority, so we are moving in the right direction,” With said. “We’ve been working on it […]. We have a diversity council that has been helping to guide some of the things we’re doing in our division to ensure that we are focusing and doing the right thing in the hiring process. We’re also trying to focus on the experience that diverse staff are having on our campus.”

Student wages were another topic of interest, and Amanda Vaughn, Housing assistant director for talent management, said this is something her department is constantly working to improve. 

“The last five years, our student salaries have gone up and our hourly wages have gone up as well,” Vaughn said. “We plan to revisit that every year to make sure we are meeting the standard and also providing a reasonable income for students who are working for our department.”

The event ended with a question and answer period from students in the audience, in which the appropriate panelist addressed the student’s concern. When asked what the biggest issue is in Transportation Services, Senior Director Bill Donovan said availability is one of the biggest concerns students have. 

“The issue with parking and transportation is getting enough of it,” Donovan said. “We do have enough parking to serve everyone who is driving to campus, what we don’t have is enough parking where everyone wants it. We are trying to do our very best with the limited resources that we have.” 

Additionally, Donovan addressed a question from pre-fashion freshman Dominique Hawkins, who was wondering why students with Highland Street Parking Garage permits could not move into other lots after 5:30 p.m. like students with other permits can. Donovan said this is something the department is currently working on and a new type of permit will be introduced in Fall 2022 to resolve this issue. 

“I attended the event because I wanted to get more information about what is going on on campus and how to understand it better,” Hawkins said. “The panelists did a good job, I was very informed and I was glad to hear that things are getting fixed.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 23, 2022, to reflect that the SGA Intern Program hosted the event.

Featured Image: Administration staff and SGA members pose together during the first-year town hall on Feb. 21, 2022. Photo by Ileana Serrano

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Jillian Nachtigal

Jillian Nachtigal

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