University Faculty Senate visits Behrend
Mason Bennett, S&T Editor
Last Monday, the Penn State University Faculty Senate (UFS) visited Behrend, allowing students to express what they like about the campus as well as some concerns the student body wanted to voice. Many individuals, representing a variety of interest groups, including students from the School of Humanities & Social Science, Engineering and sports teams. The Senate members also differed in a wide range of campuses and academia, ranging from chemistry to sociology professors. This allowed students to speak their minds truthfully, student comments made during the meeting were made under the promise of anonymity.
Many students initially noted the wonderful things about the Behrend campus. Among those representing the School of Engineering and the School of Science, students commented on the excellent research opportunities and the wide variety of staff representing the endless engineering and technology programs. In particular, there was a consensus regarding the attitude towards the staff at Behrend; students love the opportunity of being able to connect with their professors one on one. The faculty at Behrend are very aware of their students’ needs and are always willing to help out when they can. Many small details contribute to an overall feeling of being welcomed, such as a professor learning the names of everyone in their class by the end of week one; this was the largest positive topic touched on.
Keeping in mind the variety of disciplines the participants represented, there was also a variety of differing concerns. One of the biggest and most recent concerns among the student body as a whole regarded on-campus food and meals, particularly the gradual increase in food prices while the overall quality decreases. “Unfortunately for Behrend and other Penn State campuses, some things are mandated by University Park, and there are certain rules everyone has to follow,” said sociology professor Nicolas Rowland.
Furthermore, students were concerned with the lack of healthy choices across the board, especially for those with special dietary needs such as diabetics and vegetarians. Many nutritionists on campus recommend that if students and faculty aspire to eat correctly given the available options, all you have to do is read the nutritional information for any given food or meal. However, much of this information is still not available online, and the nutrition facts that are available don’t always help students eat any healthier.
One final concern about the food on campus came from a Behrend nursing major who is heavily involved in sports on campus. She addressed her concerns with how late Dobbins is open: “…this comes up in our staff meetings, the freshmen are currently dealing with the same thing…I think the hours are definitely a big issue.” she continued on to say that Dobbins’ hours are not appealing to students involved in sports because many teams have practices later at night, and by the time these practices end Dobbins has already closed.
Another main concern discussed at the UFS meeting covered some of the “quality of life” struggles that both engineering and humanities students combat. For those who have classes in any of the business or technology buildings—such as Burke and AMIC—finding parking is often a nightmare. If a student has a class that runs later in the morning, such as 10:00 a.m., the parking garage is often completely filled. Moreover, half of the parking lot next to AMIC is marked for faculty and staff only, further straining the limited parking options students have. Several key solutions were brought to the Senate’s attention, including allotting a larger portion of the parking lot near AMIC to student parking, and introducing a system that informs students how many parking spots are available in the parking deck. The engineering students argued that since parking is often hectic for many, it forces them to park somewhere very far from where their class is located, consequently requiring them to walk a large distance in the snow. This can ultimately add up to 15 minutes to their arrival time.
Students from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences had their share of grievances as well. One English major noted that she feels as though the Humanities Department is neglected at times. She explained that many of the classes that she was interested in taking were dropped or substituted for a different class for one reason or another. This worried her, as she has not been able to select her academics in a beneficial way. Additionally, many career fairs that have been held at Behrend are not inclusive towards English majors. Too often, a student looking for an internship opportunity struggles to locate and speak with companies that are actively hiring English major undergraduates. This problem has been attributed to a lack of incentivization for professors in the School of Humanities to share some of their career-oriented connections with students.
Overall, the University Senate student meeting was very productive and useful to both the faculty and student body as a whole. The multitude of representatives from a variety of disciplines allowed for an equally diverse set of appreciations and concerns for the campus. In combination with the sincere and compassionate board members, the meeting enabled progress towards an improved college experience for all.