Administration responds to student maintenance and housing critiques

Joseph Tingley, News Editor

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Allegheny Student Government met with members of the Allegheny College administration on March 15 and March 29 to address previously raised student concerns. Director of Residence Life Jen Foxman was present on March 15 to address ongoing student housing concerns.

In previous meetings, ASG members criticized how changes to the student housing policy were made without student input or approval. Foxman admitted things could have been done differently and apologized for the lack of communication.

“I don’t want you to feel like you don’t matter to us,” Foxman said.

At the end of the day, there needs to be a better system in place. ”

— Sofia Kaufman

Foxman said in the meeting that she is happy to hear from students directly about issues concerning student housing. ASG Senator Walter Stover, ’17, said it is important that students have a hand in actually creating policies related to the Office of Residence Life.

“I think meeting with a student committee is definitely a step in the right direction,” Stover said.

Foxman said the Office of Residence Life is working to improve conditions within college-owned housing. She said they have been conducting walkthroughs with Physical Plant and housekeeping services to work to address concerns.

Foxman said Residence Life is mindful of ensuring student comfort is a priority. She said that, currently, there are no plans to renovate any of the existing dormitories.

“In terms of any major renovations, I am not aware of any,” she said.

Several ASG members reported issues from bat infestations, electrical problems and leaking roofs. Foxman admitted that on-campus houses do not get as much attention from Office of Residence Life.

“Houses are places we do not get in on a regular basis,” Foxman said.

Foxman encouraged students to continue reporting concerns, as residence life is often not aware that they exist, so  this type of feedback is invaluable. She said with only 72 student employees, they are not a large department and are “stretched pretty thin.”

“That’s a small department for a residential college,” Foxman said.

Dean of Students Kimberly Ferguson spoke at a previous meeting, saying a new software system for room draw and work orders is necessary. The implementation of the program, according to Ferguson, could cost between $20,000 and $45,000. Foxman agreed that this would help the situation.

“Any of you who have been through room draw know that Gretchen [Kerr] and I sit there with pencils, and that is not a good use of our time,” Foxman said

Chief of Staff Sofia Kaufman, ’17, said it is important that things begin to change.

“At the end of the day there needs to be a better system in place,” Kaufman said.

Director of the Allegheny Physical Plant Cliff Willis and Chief Financial Officer Linda Wetsell attended the March 29 meeting to address some of these maintenance concerns.

Willis said maintaining all of the facilities on campus is a daunting task given the age of the buildings on campus. He said recent retirements have also made it more challenging. Last year alone the department lost 150 years of combined institutional knowledge as employees retired. Two of those vacancies have not been filled for budget reasons.

Willis said he has 31 employees to maintain more than 1.4 million square feet of facilities.

Despite the vacancies, Willis said they have a three day maximum turnaround on all maintenance concerns that directly affect student life.

Several ASG senators brought up the continued issues of adequate lighting on campus. Willis said this is an issue they are still working to address, especially on North Main Street.

“We’ve been lucky enough to receive a state grant. The goal of this grant is to improve the lighting on  [North] Main Street,” Willis said.

In terms of lighting on campus paths, Willis said the college is still working to ensure that those areas are suitably illuminated, but at the moment, the focus is on North Main Street. He said it is important that students bring areas that are not well-lit to the attention of the physical plant.

Updated April 14, 2016 at 8:17 p.m.

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