“Everybody wakes up every day to create a better experience for students”: State of Student Address tackles housing, food services and more

“Everybody wakes up every day to create a better experience for students”: State of Student Address tackles housing, food services and more

Josie Anderson, Managing Editor

UM-Flint leadership addressed student concerns in the Kiva last Tuesday, Nov. 9.

Student Government director of student relations Jack Griswold opened the event, introducing and recognizing Dean of Students Julie Snyder, Vice-Chancellor Christopher Giordano and UM-Flint Chancellor Deba Dutta before Student Government vice-president and event MC Amena Shukairy opened the event and welcomed UM-Flint Chancellor Deba Dutta to the floor. 

Dutta spoke briefly about the importance of a partnership with Student Government when it comes to institutional priorities. As an organization, the university has three simple things to think about: growing enrollment, investing in people and programs, and focusing on innovation. 

“We need to remind ourselves that at the end of every decision there is a student,” Dutta said. “The students are … why the university exists.”

Dutta was followed by Student Government president Levi Todd, who spoke about the Go Blue Guarantee, diversity in Student Government and equity before the floor was opened to questions and concerns.

One issue that came up repeatedly was housing and accommodations on campus. One senior, Nick, a psychology major and sociology minor, voiced his concerns that Wolverine Homecoming failed to address student needs. 

Nick cited housing, financial and food insecurities, as well as lacking accommodations for international students and food services that aren’t open on weekends as issues the campus is facing, questioning what homecoming was able to accomplish. “I felt like having a parade and having a dance as well wasn’t addressing any of those needs,” he said.

Todd stated that one of the reasons Wolverine Homecoming was brought to campus was in response to students’ desire for traditions, school pride and community involvement. “After receiving that feedback … we saw it in the best interest that we should bring our homecoming to the Flint campus,” Todd said. 

Shukairy noted that senators are already working on some of these issues as a part of their caucus. Todd encouraged students to present issues they would like Student Government to take up this year to Student Government either by email, through concerns boxes, or at their office. 

As the voice of the students, Student Government members want to know what concerns students have. “That is the reason we’re holding this forum today,” he said.

Other students also expressed concern over housing issues. One said she felt there was a lapse of communication in housing after a lack of response when reaching out for help. Another said she  was not able to receive proper accommodations after a surgery. 

Issues like these are some of what Student Government senator Jacquindre Brown hopes to tackle with his caucus, which centers around housing. “We’re working on it,” he said, “and we’re trying to do it soon.”

Another student brought up the issue of menstrual hygiene products in university bathrooms. “One of the main platforms that this Student Government ran on is inclusivity,” she said. “Currently, menstrual hygiene products are only available in women’s bathrooms.” She asked if there could be a way to expand this service into all campus bathrooms to benefit transgender and nonbinary students. 

Snyder replied that she, along with Dr. Luke and Samara Howell, would be meeting at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10th with Facilities and Operations to explore the topic so services can be offered in a safe way before presenting a plan to Student Government for support. 

Communication and mental health also came up throughout the night. Senior Lydia Powell asked about the disconnect she feels on campus. “There is a huge gap between students, faculty and staff,” she said. “What kind of efforts would be put forth to build that bridge?”

Snyder agreed that the pandemic has made things different. In answer, she proposed a question of what students would like to see to help bridge that gap and advised that the concerns be brought before the Faculty Council and Staff Council to help address the issue.

Lastly, Giordano addressed the issue of mental health and student wellbeing. “This is a priority,” he said. While facing added difficulties from the pandemic, campus staff has been working to restructure and provide better support for students. 

Giordano gave a reminder that legal services and telehealth are now available to students, and other partnerships through the Recreation Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and disability services. A partnership with UM-Ann Arbor will soon be brought to campus, allowing Flint students to access resources there.

Disability services are also continuing to grow. In response to a question about the possibility of the university’s disability department expanding, with mentions of a lack of staff and high response times, Giordano said that department capacity changes to match student needs. 

“Currently, we have … about 160 registered students through that office. So, as those needs continue to increase then we look at the support and staff structure to see how we can continue to build that capacity.”

“Everybody wakes up every day to create a better experience for students,” Giordano said. “And that’s part of what we did today.”Student Government can be contacted with further questions, comments, and concerns by email at [email protected], in-person at the Student Government office, or online via social media.