Let your voice be heard at town hall meetings

South Puget Sound Community College will be holding several open forums this month, including a town hall meeting open to all students.

According to the Dean of Student Life Dave Rector, the Nov. 14 open forum is a chance for the college’s staff to present questions and receive responses from the college president and his staff.

According to Rector, students are welcome to the open forum, but faculty and staff are the focus.

The ASB Student Senate is currently organizing a town hall meeting for Nov. 29 designed to allow students to ask questions and state concerns that will be heard by both the Student Senate and the college administration.

ASB Vice President David Vo said he assures students that the town hall “will be leveled and equal for an open discussion.”

“We want to have legitimate questions, and we want to have students present,” said ASB President Jeff Ostlund.

The town hall meeting is a six year old tradition which began after the previous ASB president approached college President Gerald Pumphrey with the idea for an open forum for students to speak their minds and be heard by the administration.

Ostlund praised the president’s interest in student participation.

“Dr. Pumphrey has been very good at working with us and has been very accessible. He really wants an understanding all the way from the top to the bottom,” he said.

Last year’s meeting only had a single student who attended on their own accord. Ostlund said he acknowledges the problems with attendance, but is determined to improve it.

“When it comes down to it, we’ll be dragging people in. Get them in there, hopefully asking questions,” he said.

“This year, our team is determined to make the town hall a signature event.” He said they have “amped up” promotion of the town hall this year, including the use of handbills, fliers, Facebook, ad-boards, digital signage, classroom visits, and personal conversations,” Vo said.

Attendance isn’t Ostlund’s only concern. He said he wants students to come with questions.

When told about the town hall meeting, many students admitted that they either didn’t know enough to have an opinion, or didn’t have any major concerns.

“I am not aware of anything I would like to change about this school,” said student Grace Ordos. Ordos did think that some student concerns weren’t being addressed. She said the Student Senate should work on reading advice from students submitted to the suggestion box. “I remember putting in a suggestion about fixing a microwave in the Student Union Building and I haven’t really seen anything done about it.”

When informed about Ordos’ concern, Ostlund stated that he was unaware of an issue with the microwave and noted that there is a functional microwave in the cafeteria seating area. He advised students to take any further cafeteria problems to Food Services Manager Talita Bigelow.

The few complaints students did have were in regards to the school’s smoking ban. Student Nathan Harrison said, “Really, to get off-campus to smoke a cigarette, we have to blow off classes. We’re missing classes just to get our cigarettes because there’s just no place to go.” Harrison also complained about the school’s policy on smokeless cigarettes or E-cigarettes.

“They’re better for us because they don’t contain the hazardous materials that cigarettes do, but I come out here and smoke cigarettes because I can’t use my E-cigarette on campus, so I might as well come out here and smoke…I don’t see why they’re being banned as well.”

A.J. Arratt and Zach Yandrich agreed with Harrison. Arratt said he was bothered by the fact that the campus and college are public, yet smoking is banned.

While both Ostlund and Vo said the Senate will not be providing questions, they did have some ideas as to issues that students might bring up.

“I think there’s going to be some questions about tuition rising, and some questions about the parking situation,” said Ostlund, adding, “If you come here after 8 a.m. it’s pretty much… willy-nilly out there.” Vo said the issues most relevant to him include increasing tuition and First Amendment issues on campus

If students have any issues or concerns they want addressed, Ostlund said he encourages them to stop by the ASB Student Senate offices.
“We have an open door policy here. There’s people in here every day from morning until evening. So they can come to us at any time, tell us what they’re thinking, then we’ll put it in the works,” he said.