On Wednesday, October 16, Mercyhurst Student Government sponsored a housing forum open to the student body about housing concerns. Students that currently live on campus as well as students that have moved off of campus that felt the need to voice their concerns from the past attended the forum.
The meeting was mediated by student government president, Amber Penna, along with a panel of five administrators including Alice Agnew, Director of Residence Life, Laura Zirkle, Vice President of Student Life, Gary Brown, Chief Financial Officer, Sue Johnson, and Ken Stepherson, General Manager of Facility Services.
Students had expected to receive feedback from the administrators with hopes of what they have planned for the future of residential and student life on campus.
Some students feel as if the meeting served as more of a list taking of current issues of only those who attended the meeting rather than all the other issues that still remain.
This leads students to question the upkeep and maintenance methods taken during summer as well as where the value in amenities are for the price they are paying.
This led students to question what amenities they were receiving based off of what they would receive off campus.
Zirkle responded saying that on-campus students receive 24-hour maintenance, and that calls to police safety comes with a quick response.
Other questions included topics such as: Blue security lights, what upkeep on campus housing receives each year, inspections of the housing, bug-infestation, basic concerns of current residence and student life methods, and personal housing issues in general.
However, some were led to question what the panel plans to do about the rest of the housing of the students that were either not able to attend and/or were not aware of the forum.
As for the blue light security system, the response as to whether they plan to add more on campus, the concern that some of the systems do not work, and what they would plan to do if someone did in fact need the system, the panel collaboratively responded that studies have shown that the systems are not used, therefore the need for more is non-existent.
Multiple concerns were about beds that have bases that collapse, and the bug infestation issue in not one, but multiple buildings.
Other concerns were about the visible mold and mildew problems in which panel member, Ken Stepherson, responded that most of the mold in located in the bottom floor apartments, which most are unoccupied.
Although the forum allowed students to voice their concerns and hopefully get those concerns taken care of, many were left wondering whether administration finds it concerning that the apartments have all of these issues to begin with.
When asked how they plan to support the concerns that were brought forward, Laura Zirkle stated that she was not “personally” willing to advocate immediately for the student body.
Gary Brown then added that no one on the panel sits directly on the Board of Trustees, but on sub-committees that report to the board. He also added that concerns that are directed towards the board should be reported to Amber Penna who sits on the board. However, some feel that this response of unwillingness to advocate on the student body’s behalf somewhat defeated the purpose of the forum entirely.
The panel also stated that the board of trustees was looking into issues and touring upperclassmen apartments first-hand.
Some are led to wonder whether these issues have anything to do with the current retention rate issues, seeing as how coming to school is a second home for most students.
Many complaints are also that other schools provide better, newer housing facilities for their students. The majority of the upperclassmen housing is dated back to the 1950’s and have not been updated since.
The updates that have been made are simply aesthetics including furniture, appliances, and carpeting.
The future is in the hands of the current administration and the board of trustees and students are curious to see whether the school takes these concerns seriously and moves their housing into the current era.
Afterall, we are supposed to be a “happier U”niversity.