Board of Trustees faces negative comments with positive numbers

President F. Javier Cevallos discussed the increasing number of international students on campus. (Ashley Wall / THE GATEPOST)

The FSU Board of Trustees discussed both positive and negative trends the University is facing – especially regarding underrepresented populations on campus – during its meeting on March 21.

During the Enrollment and Student Development Subcommittee report, FSU Social Media Coordinator Christina Casinelli spoke about obstacles her department faces.

Casinelli described short-term goals and objectives she has pursued since coming to the University in August 2018. “[Regarding] social media, particularly at any college, there are two main goals: build awareness and increase engagement.”

Casinelli explained the role of social media as a tool for reaching out to prospective students.

She said, “I’m also planning on developing resources that will be a kind of one-stop shop for administrators, [with] frequently asked questions and points of contact in certain departments.”

Casinelli added, “I can’t tell you how many times I get an admissions question, and I’m just like, ‘I don’t know – contact these people.’

“To be able to have those answers readily available for the student, or to know who to send them to directly,” she said, “I feel like that will help alleviate any lag time.

She added, “It’s all about instant gratification and response on social [media].”

Student Trustee Ayanna Ferguson asked if Casinelli was responsible for managing social media accounts for clubs and organizations on campus.

Casinelli said she is “following them and monitoring them,” but not directly managing the accounts.

The issue with the student accounts is they are outdated and infrequently updated, she said, calling them “dead accounts, because, as you know, there’s turnover in eBoards and things like that.” 

Trustee Anthony Hubbard asked, “Can you just say a couple things about our strategy to deal with negative messaging on social media?”

Casinelli responded, “Typically, it’s to monitor and observe, unless it is very clearly offensive, defamatory, or an outright lie. 

“I don’t believe in deleting a comment or stifling what people say, as long as it’s not awful or harmful. People are entitled to their opinions,” she said.

“Honestly, a lot of our users keep each other in check,” Casinelli added.

Board of Trustees’ Chair Kevin Foley spoke about the two recent hate crimes on campus.

“To me, it’s just such a detriment,” he said, “but we cannot just focus on the negative, because there’s a lot of good that’s happening on campus.”

He added, “I also want to commend the president, administration, and the faculty for their collective efforts to provide support to the students to foster the dialogue of race on campus.”

Foley said law enforcement is investigating the incidents and hopes to have “campus cooperation” in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

“Criminal and civil actions will be taken against them,” Foley said.

He added, “It’s not acceptable behavior. It does not exemplify the tenets of this campus and there’s no place for this behavior on Framingham State’s campus.”

During his report, President F. Javier Cevallos said FSU “is a campus that prides itself on being a place where we respect everyone, and we want to be inclusive of every student and member of the community.”

Millie Gonzalez, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, spoke about three events: Defining Hate Crimes on College Campuses April 1, guest speaker and filmmaker MK Asante’s talk April 3, and the World Culture Community Collecting event April 5.

Gonzalez then answered questions from the board about the Campus Climate Survey conducted spring 2018.

Trustee Fernando Quezada asked about the low rate of participation in the survey.

Gonzalez said, “That particular time, in the spring, there was a lot of angst and hurt. So, that could be contributing to the very low response rate from students.”

She added, “We need to create a culture of students and faculty and staff taking the Campus Climate Survey.” Gonzalez noted a lack of responses to the demographics portion of the survey.

Trustee Nancy Budwig and Foley asked how the results of the survey would influence the next course of action.

Gonzalez said, “We already have a structure in place in terms of everything that was recommended in the report.

“Some of the things that we’ve been doing have been OK, but we need to do a lot more,” she added.

Eric Gustafson, vice president of development and alumni affairs, said “almost $4,000” was raised from a silent auction during the December holiday alumni event. 

In his report, Gustafson said as of March 18, the University has raised a total of $2,362,513 toward an FY19 goal of $2,500,000.

He added, “We feel good about where we are and where we’re going to finish the fiscal year.”

Cevallos reported the number of international students visiting FSU, and students from FSU travelling abroad, has increased.

“In 2009, we had 37 students who traveled abroad,” he said. “This year we have 90, and that is the highest that we have ever had.”

He added, “In the class of ’08 we had 19 students. … In the class of ’19, we have 72.

“What’s particularly impressing is that 40% of the students who went abroad this year are students of color,” Cevallos said.

Two international students from the hospitality department – one from Nepal and one from Japan – were present at the meeting for the “Student-in-the-Spotlight” showcase.

During her Academic Affairs subcommittee report, Budwig said the number of “minority” students who receive a D, F, or W in a course during their first-year spring semesters is lower in courses that use “high-impact practices” (HIPs) than Foundations courses and regular first-year courses.

According to Budwig’s data, the DFW rates in regular first-year courses are 17.55% for white students and 31.01% for their “minority” counterparts. The DFW rates in Foundations courses are 21% for white students and 37% for minority students.

The rates for spring 2018 HIPs courses are 12.1% for white students and 21.5% for minority students – the lowest rates, Budwig said. 

She also said the number of minority students in the Honors program is up.

“About a decade ago,” she said, “5% of the students in Honors were minority students, and now that number is up to 19%.”

With regards to the five-year accreditation report, Budwig said, “It was said to be a model for the state.”

Lorretta Holloway, vice president of enrollment and student development, read the Enrollment and Student Development report in the absence of Trustee Brian Herr.

Budwig asked about decreasing enrollment numbers.

Holloway said, “Our staff is just working flat out.

“We haven’t necessarily had the best press during a high time of recruitment,” she added.

During her Student Trustee report, Ferguson said SGA’s unallocated budget, derived from the Student Activities Trust Fund, was $14,624.59 at the time of the meeting.

The last day for student organizations to submit funding requests is April 11.

During his Administration, Finance, and Technology report, Trustee Michael Grilli informed the board that a second line of credit was not needed for renovations of the Danforth Art Museum.

Grilli read from the report, which states, “Due to recent gifts and the transfer of remnant Danforth Art Alliance funds, it is not anticipated that this line of credit will be drawn upon.”

He added, “The good news tonight is that we have a donor.”

Foley concluded the meeting by saying, “I just want to take a moment to recognize Fernando’s contribution to the Trustees.”

Quezada was appointed to the Board of Trustees in 2009 by former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. After serving on the board for 10 years, his term has come to an end.

Foley said, “I’ve always enjoyed your candid, and very insightful questions and comments.”

He told Quezada, “You’ll be missed.”

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