FSU students voiced their concerns about campus coronavirus (COVID-19) preparation, parking, and the residence halls, among other issues, during the Administrators’ Forum hosted by SGA March 10.
Since the Administrators’ Forum, the University has opted to move classes online and residents have been required to return home.
Acknowledging this possibility, SGA Senator McKenzie Ward asked in what ways the University would help those who are food or housing insecure.
President F. Javier Cevallos said, “First of all, we hope that we won’t have to close the University at any point.”
Cevallos said the University had anticipated the possibility of the school closing and knew if it were to get to that point, provisions would have to be made for those students as well as international students.
“We cannot just close the doors and send people out,” he said.
Lorretta Holloway, vice president for enrollment and student development, said there is a group that meets every day whose role it is to think about what it would mean for the school to close and plan those provisions.
Holloway also discussed the concern of misinformation circulating the University regarding COVID-19.
“Part of the issue with safety is that safety is always undermined when people are misinformed,” she said.
SGA Secretary Lexi Kays asked about the rumors and misinformation that come from the faculty.
Ellen Zimmerman, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, said, “Don’t lose faith in your faculty.
“The people who work on campus, including faculty and staff, have been as much in the dark as you have about a lot of this because everything is changing so quickly,” Zimmerman said.
She added, “Now that we have been talking and planning, we have been providing them with more information that they are getting at the same time you are.”
Cevallos explained all of the information for the University comes from the morning meetings and people are informed from there through emails.
Julia Tutela, resident assistant, asked about the administration’s response to the parking petition that circulated on social media at the beginning of March.
The petition was in favor of allowing residents to park on campus during weekends.
“A lot of these students kind of felt ignored about the whole situation – kind of brushed to the side,” Tutela said. “I was just wondering if there is any communication being done about it?”
Chief of University Police Brad Medeiros said, “To set the record straight, there had been no change to the parking policy – at all.
“We’ve seen an uptick in noncompliance with parking going on for about three semesters now, and it has been getting worse,” Medeiros said. “It’s not just Sunday into Monday, but throughout the week.”
Medeiros explained the “domino effect” that takes place when students park where they are not supposed to during the week.
When students take commuter or faculty spots, that forces those who lost their assigned parking to go take spots that aren’t theirs – bumping more people out, he said.
Medeiros added nobody likes parking tickets and the University Police just need compliance.
“We do understand there is a need for closer parking on campus, and we convened the parking committee this week along with Vice President [Dale] Hamel,” he said. “We looked to see what we can do to kind of advance our weekend parking a bit.”
Medeiros said Salem End was already open for weekend residential parking, but they also opened up the Maynard Parking Lot, next to West Hall, in addition to the Maple Commuter Lot on Maple Street.
Students also brought up concerns with parking ticket inconsistencies as well as problems with parking passes.
SGA Senator Jake Maradian asked about temporary passes for situations in which students have to park in upper-campus lots.
He explained how he needed to leave campus early in the morning on a Friday, so he parked in Salem End because he couldn’t get the RamTram, and he got ticketed.
Medeiros explained temporary day passes are issued to students who apply for certain exceptions.
“However, where does it really end when you start all these special arrangements for everybody?” he asked. “How do we keep track of all of it all of the time?”
Medeiros added, “I’ll have cars everywhere all over again.”
SGA Senator Ewnie Fedna asked about parking ticket inconsistencies when it comes to the rationale for ticketing.
“There’s instances where the reason why was for parking in the wrong direction or being accused of being in the fire lane when I’m actually in the spot or things like that – reasoning that just doesn’t make sense,” Fedna said.
She explained it took weeks to dispute the ticket for “parking in the wrong direction.”
She said, “It seemed like there was a disconnect from the people who’d administer the tickets and the parking clerk.”
In an email, Medeiros explained, “There is a violation for parking in the wrong direction.”
As an example of parking in the wrong direction, he explained, “If someone parked in the 15-minute spaces in front of May Hall – if the vehicle was parked facing up the hill – that area is a one way from Campus Way to State Street.”
Medeiros explained to Fedna it is a difficult question to answer because the officers may have different interpretations for what warrants a parking ticket.
He said all tickets can be appealed, and the Parking Clerk’s office does not fall under the control of the University Police, but under facilities.
Patritia Whitney, vice president for facilities and capital planning, said the Parking Clerk’s office does not have all the information in detail for what Fedna is asking for in their computers, which is why there is an appeal process.
Other students were also frustrated by the “disconnect” between the Parking Clerk’s office and the University Police.
Medeiros explained, by law, “It has to be two seperate entities. It is unethical for me to oversee somebody that could grant permission for a denial or conviction on a parking ticket.”
[To learn more about the parking policy and petition, see The Gatepost’s article, “Students sign petition to change weekend parking policy,” by News Editor Evan Lee.]
Students brought up concerns with laundry in the residence halls.
Ward asked how old the washers in Corinne Hall Towers were because she has found many of them to be broken when she tries to do her laundry.
Glenn Cochran, director of residence life, said he was unsure how old they were and he would have to look into the University’s contracts with the State College Building Authority.
Cochran explained it is important for students to report to facilities whenever a washer is broken or if anything else needs to be repaired.
He said it is important that in the maintenance request, students be as specific as possible because sometimes the service worker will not know what exactly needs to be repaired.
Caroline Cowart, resident assistant, asked about the possibility of putting a change machine in the residence halls for laundry.
She explained many of her residents come to her for quarters, saying they cannot use RamCash because they do not have a card to put money on their student IDs.
Cochran said, “A while ago, there weren’t many vendors that wanted to do it because of the risk of theft and damage of the cash machines.”
He explained the vendors would want the machines in a centralized location such as the police station, but that is not convenient for students.
Cochran said the last time it was looked into was a while ago and that he could review the possibility again.
Students brought up concerns for options when it comes to those who are gluten-free and/or vegetarian.
Ashley Wall, The Gatepost editor-in-chief, said, “This semester, I found myself being gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free and because of cross contamination, I can only have one meal – maybe two – from the Dining Commons.”
She asked, “I was wondering if you guys considered alternative meal plans or pricing for students who do have allergies and medical proof?”
Aretha Phillips, Sodexo manager at FSU, said, “We haven’t considered that, but that’s something we could do.”
[Editor’s note: McKenzie Ward and Ashley Wall are members of The Gatepost]