ASG hosts class deans

The Allegheny Student Government approved funds to kickstart a food bank for students, spoke with the Class Deans about stronger support for students with mental health issues and provided an update on the reallocation of funds for club budgets at their weekly General Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
During the finance report — delivered by Financial Controller Hunter Goerman, ’25, in the absence of Directory of the Treasury Adriana Solis, ’23 — the Senate approved $14,106 in spending. This was divided into $5,109.39 from the General Fund, $5,376 from the Speaker Fund and $3,620.90 from the Culture, Identity and Leadership Coalition Fund. Among the disbursements was $500 from ASG itself to kick start a new food bank to be hosted in the IDEAS Center.
This $500 will be matched by Vice President for Institutional Advancement Matthew Stinson, who approached Green after ASG presented on food insecurity on campus to the Allegheny Experience Committee of the Board of Trustees.
“We have our first official donor for the food bank, thanks to that meeting,” Green told GA. “Matt Stinson — who is probably not (watching) online — but I thank him personally and will be following up with him once again. He came up to us afterwards and said that he would match ASG’s investment of $500. So now we have $1,000 to work with for this first initial wave of the food bank.”
After the meeting, Green cited a 2019 study conducted by then-Dean of Students April Thompson that she said found 20-30% of the student body experienced food insecurity as the reason for the food bank’s creation.
“With Aramark, we have seen inflated prices with smaller portion sizes,” Green said. “We’ve also seen a lot of people apprehensive to eat at Brooks. The options for meal plans have (been) limited to the most expensive options now, so we’re also hearing from low-income students that being forced into having a meal plan is making them even more food-insecure because the options here are not representative of their personal diets.”
Green said the food bank will not be permanent and said she expects the college to respond to student feedback.

“We’ve met with the Board (of Trustees), and discussed with the Board and administration: if we are experiencing higher prices, smaller portions, people not wanting to eat at Brooks under Aramark and they are a new company, is there a means that the board can use to make Aramark change what they’re doing — the Board or the administration — and if there isn’t, is there another company out there that will do it better?” Green said. “This is our short term solution for the school to figure out what they need to do.”
The guest speakers at the GA were First-Year Class Dean and Director of Allegheny Bound Niki Fjeldal, Second-Year Class Dean and Director of Transfer Advising Amy Stearns and Third- and Fourth-Year Class Dean Jonathon May.
May framed each Class Dean as managing a specific period of the college experience.
“(Fjeldal) helps you to transition as you’re entering and enrolling; you’re making social connections, building your awareness of what your needs are,” May said. “Then Dean Stearns will step in and help you through the sophomore year to cultivate … what you might want to major in, what your future might look like, help you discover more of yourself. And then when you get to me, it’s really thinking about life, after Allegheny. Where are you going to go with this education?”
Following their presentation, the floor was opened for questions from ASG. ASG President Veronica Green, ’23, asked a question from Director of Organizational Development Kori Bower, ’23, who did not attend the meeting.
“(Bower) had recently met with Provost Haddad in regards to advocating for mental health days for students, and the provost had since directed her to the Class Deans to collaborate in that kind of advocacy for mental health days and having mental health be excused absences rather than unexcused absences,” Green said. “Are you willing to share your opinions on that? Or maybe some ways that you can join forces in that regard?”
May cited his background in counseling in suggesting that the college should push more preventative measures to help students before they reach a crisis point.
“There are resources: free counseling, free support services that are here that can help a student prevent getting to that point where they’ve got to miss classes,” May said. “You never want to miss class, because studies have shown consistently that students that have the highest attendance are the most successful.”
May said that, in his view, mental illness should be treated the same as physical illness when it comes to excused absences. The Compass, the college’s student handbook, states that official medical absences require a diagnosis from the Winslow Health Center or an authorized off-campus medical facility, and that, “the illness or injury must be one which has been determined by medical authority to require bed rest for a period not less than 24 hours, immobilization, or treatment that can only be scheduled in conflict with class or laboratory work.”
Individual professors are permitted — but not required — to penalize students for absences, and can set more lenient policies if they so choose.
“With the exception of official medical excuses, students are permitted to be absent from class only with the approval of the instructor,” the section on attendance reads. “Unauthorized absences may result in grade penalty or other consequences at the discretion of the instructor. Course instructors are required to state their attendance policy at the outset of the course.”
ASG Vice President Rudra Schultz-Ray, ’23, told May in the meeting that the official policy should be more lenient.
“It’s as (Haddad) said, she wants to leave it up to faculty and doesn’t want it to just be a unilateral decision by her office,” Schultz-Ray said. “I think most students would prefer if it’s a unilateral position as opposed to having to argue with each — not argue, talk — to each one of your professors in each case as to why you couldn’t get your work done.”
Stearns thanked Shultz-Ray for the feedback, saying “that’s very helpful.”
After the meeting, Green said that ASG will continue to push for a more lenient policy on mental health, even if professors and staff do not agree with the initiative.
“We are committed to moving forward with this and fielding options,” Green said. “If faculty and if administration is opposed, we do plan on moving forward with — hopefully a resolution and also working with other institutions as well to see if they have those options available.”
In his report as Vice-President, Schultz-Ray said that more information about clubs who re-applied for budgets would be available soon. ASG reopened budget hearings last month after realizing that the surplus fund from last year was larger than expected.
“We’ve individually reviewed budgets, but (Solis) is sick and we haven’t been able to meet yet,” Schultz-Ray said. “Hopefully they’ll get done as soon as possible because all the individual steps have been filled out and we just need to sit down and actually talk about it.”
Solis and Bower were not the only Cabinet members absent from the GA. Also absent were Director of Sustainability Haley Hersh, ’23, Co-Director of Student Affairs Amani Green, ’25, Attorney General Abigail Estrada-Hernandez, ’25, and Director of Community Relations William Lowthert, ’23.
Green said that the absences were attributable to an event required for the college’s English students.
“The English department had a mandatory event for t anybody who takes an English class, I believe — and we have a lot of people in English classes, so they weren’t able to come tonight,” Green said after the meeting.
Frederick F. Seely Professor of English Christopher Bakken clarified that the event was only mandatory for students taking the department’s creative writing courses.
“The Single Voice reading (Tuesday) night was not required of all students enrolled in an English course,” Bakken wrote via email. “However, since these authors are on the syllabi for all creative writing courses being offered this semester, students currently enrolled in a creative writing course in the English department were expected to attend.”
As the final piece of business, Green asked the Senate what they wanted to do for the next GA, which is scheduled to fall on Gator Day: Tuesday, Oct. 25. A motion by Goerman to hold the GA virtually failed, with the vote tied at 8-8. Senator Nicole Recio Bremer, ’25, then moved to cancel GA altogether, a motion that received a second from Senator Anh Nguyen, ’25, but failed with only Bremer voting in favor.
The GA will next meet on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in room 301/302 of the Henderson Campus Center.