Hear and be heard: Students voice concerns at Town Hall

BY CORIE LYNN

Thursday night, between bites of pita bread, olives and cheese, students discussed issues they have seen on the FHSU campus.

The Student Government Association hosted its spring Town Hall on Feb. 6. Much like their Town Hall last Fall, students were able to broach issues they have found on campus with SGA in hopes of finding solutions. This event, however, saw a more personal environment of students sitting with representatives of the colleges, voicing concerns over appetizers.

“While it wasn’t the same design as the governmental town hall, it seemed to be more relaxed and comfortable, which was our intention,” said Jacki Dougherty, the SGA Community Relations Director.

She explained that by having students meet their SGA senators individually, students can begin to learn who represents them and to whom they can take their issues. A traditional town hall-style setting can also be more intimidating as it requires students to present their issues in front of all of their peers and representatives.

“And I also hope that students feel that their input actually matters, and with this being more peer-to-peer interaction, I think they felt more heard than in previous attempts.,” Dougherty said.

Because the students met senators of their colleges, they were able to bring up issues more relevant to themselves as well as their senator. Most students, however, discussed problems across campus they would like to see addressed.

Topics ranged from the want for additional on-campus parking to lack of student knowledge of campus safety systems. All the while, the student senators took notes to present to the Student Senate and its Executive Staff later that evening.

Dougherty noted that she heard plenty of discussion on the need for improvements to on-campus recycling, but students also explored a variety of topics.

“[W]hile there’s not necessarily one clump of similar complaints, students need to know that whatever it is, there’s a process in place that can help fix those issues,” she said.

Student Ali Weber, who said she and a friend originally came for the snacks and invitation of a student senator, said that she truly enjoyed the discussion held that evening.

“It was just fun sitting with these people and talking, getting all of it out. Everything we wanted to change about Fort Hays, everything that bothers us,” Weber said.

Weber went on to explain that the topic she became interested in was that of Freshman seminar, stating that she thought it should be free, as it is required of every student, and that the course does not relate to any major.

“And a lot of the information we get out of Freshman Seminar, we know it already from high school. You know, how to take notes, how to write a paper, whatever. That was interesting to hear about,” she said.

As Weber found others who shared her views on the relevance of the seminar course, fellow students were able to find others who shared their concerns, whether they were parking problems or safety education. According to Dougherty, this was the design of the Town Hall, both to be heard and to know that students are searching to fix the same issues.

“Just because you don’t know what other people are saying, doesn’t mean it’s not being said, so I hope that the students that were here, the students that read about it understand that this is [the SGA’s] job. Voice your concerns because we have the power to do something about it,” she said.

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