The University of Dallas Student Government (SG) sponsored a Town Hall meeting Wednesday night in Lynch Auditorium to give students a chance to present their concerns and questions to the administration.
The panel of respondents included Registrar Kathy McGraw, Assistant Director of Student Activities Catherine Duplant, Athletics Department Director Dick Strockbine, Dean of Constantin College Dr. Jonathan Sanford, Director of Student Life Dore Madere and Dining Services Manager Kyle Wilson.
Sophomore Michael Fazi, SG representative for the third floor of West Hall, organized the event.
Students could submit questions on Crusader Connect ahead of time or ask them at the meeting.
Duplant answered questions regarding the hiring process for Student Activities and Leadership Center (SALC) staff and interns.
She also discussed funding for clubs and orgs, specifically the distribution of available funds among existing clubs.
“Really, [the money goes to] whoever comes in and nags the most,” Duplant said. “If a bunch of students wanted something to happen, it would happen.”
Strockbine then answered questions about athletic facilities, and directed students to present their concerns to the Athletic Facilities Committee. Dr. John Plotts, senior vice president for enrollment and student life, formed the committee to address funding and facilities concerns for athletics at the university.
Strockbine also addressed questions regarding the complicated position of student-athletes at the university.
“We’re trying to improve academic-athletic relations,” Strockbine said. “It’s an ongoing project. I think it’s gotten better.”
Sanford also acknowledged the sometimes-strained relationship between academics and athletics on campus.
“There are endemic notions that athletes are one sort of creature and non-athletes are another,” Sanford said, adding that he would like to improve the situation.
Sanford also clarified his duties as dean and his vision for the university.
“My vision is that we might, in the next five years, do a better job articulating what we are and why we are,” Sanford said. “I want to change the Balkanization of different majors … by seeing all departments as further articulations of the Core curriculum … and reflecting on our essence and purpose as a college.”
Sanford said he drew inspiration for his vision from Saint Thomas Aquinas, specifically the philosopher’s emphasis on humility.
“The University of Dallas is a gifted place,” Sanford said. “We ought to strive after greatness with humility.”
Sanford then answered questions about a variety of student concerns, ranging from the number and treatment of adjuncts who teach at the university to the distant relationship between the student body and the administration.
Specifically, he said communication and interaction between students and administrators is necessary.
“I’ll go on record saying I’ll answer any question,” Sanford said.
Madere added that certain administrators, such as Plotts and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Dr. Brian Murray try to make themselves visible and available to students.
Finally, Sanford said he hoped to change what he considers a troubling level of anxiety among the student body.
“I’d like to address what I’ve noted in some students, especially freshmen and sophomores, that I might characterize as angst about the future,” Sanford said. “I want to find ways … to guard against anxiety about the future and to encourage students to embrace what I would characterize as the vocation of being a student.”
Many of the questions directed at Madere focused on the ongoing debate surrounding the possibility of concealed carry at the university.
“The university is taking the opportunity to speak with students, staff and faculty for their opinions,” Madere said. “Then [we’ll] decide if there is a place [for campus carry] and what that looks like.”
She added that Sanford was conducting a poll for faculty members on the issue.
Finally, Madere stressed that, while the university’s official policy will likely be written in the spring, any changes will not be implemented until fall 2016.
She then answered questions about increasing class sizes and the consequences for residence halls, washing machines and dryers in O’Connell hall in need of renovation and the possibility of bringing back DART passes for students.
Wilson then talked about the problem of students taking dishware from Haggar Café, noting that Aramark had to replenish $12,000 worth of silverware last spring.
A possible solution, he and Madere said, would be a monthly “amnesty day” for students to return items they have taken.
Madere and Wilson also addressed questions about the return of the 10-Meal and 14-Meal plans and about extending hours in the cafeteria.
Madere noted that students must be aware of the consequences of changes to Dining Services.
“With every change, there is an associated cost,” Madere said. “It’s a cost to Aramark, which becomes a cost to us, which becomes a cost to you.”
Wilson added that students will be able to provide input on desired changes.
“It comes down to what the mass population wants from a service perspective and from a dollar perspective,” Wilson said.