Mellichamp Calls Town Hall Meeting


Mellichamp addresses student concerns and questions. PHOTO / BRYCE GRIGGS

Mellichamp addresses student concerns and questions. PHOTO / BRYCE GRIGGS

“It’s nice to see you here, I know it’s a dreary day.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, President Mellichamp called a town hall meeting in the Student Commons. The president gave students a platform to ask their questions and voice complaints about what’s happening on campus.

“I just wanted to update you on a few things and then give you a chance to put me on the spot and ask any questions you might have about the college.”

Students gather in the Commons for a town hall meeting. PHOTO / BRYCE GRIGGS

Aida Roberts, sophomore business major, asked about the ice cream machine in the cafeteria. The machine has been in and out of service since the beginning of the semester, before disappearing entirely around midterms.

“I hate that,” Mellichamp said. “After trying to fix that for what, three years? I told [Chartwells] to find the most expensive ice cream machine they could buy and get it down there because I’m tired of spending money to fix a bad machine. We just bought a new machine, I don’t know what it cost and I don’t want to know what it cost. I just hope it works and it works for a long time.”

Bailey White, sophomore mass communication major expressed his concerns over pedestrian safety in the parking lot outside the Commons.

“I’ve asked the city of Demorest to put in a speed bump there or two to slow things down– they haven’t taken too kindly to my suggestion, but I’ll keep working on that.” The president said. “Long-term we do have another solution for that, but you won’t be here to see it.”

Mellichamp told students that the solution the board has approved is that eventually there will be a new dorm built on the hill above the tennis courts. He said they plan to tear Wallace Hall down and build a parking lot in its place.

“But that’s not going to help us right now. I’ll reach out to the folks at the city again and see if we can get a speed bump there.”

Mellichamp claimed that as of the week prior to the meeting, he had “made a request to a foundation” for a half-million-dollar grant and that he had already raised a quarter of a million dollars to go towards renovating Nielsen Hall, the former cafeteria, into the new School of Education. Mellichamp says that the project of renovating Nielsen Hall will cost around $2 million; his goal is to have the funds to begin renovations as soon as the music students have been moved into the new Music Conservatory.

Dalton Patterson, junior Biology major, asked Mellichamp about the poor ventilation in Stewart hall that has hindered anatomy classes from performing dissections.

“I don’t know about the ventilation, that’s the first I’ve heard,” Mellichamp said. “That building was designed… with really fantastic ventilation systems, so it may just be that we need to replace some of those.”

Mellichamp also addressed Patterson’s questions about cracks in the walls above some labs on the third floor. Over the summer there had been strong winds that blew a satellite over and caused damage to the roof, Mellichamp said, and these cracks may have been a result of those events.

When a resident of Purcell Hall expressed concern over the coloration of tap water in the building, Mellichamp blamed the pipes and the city of Demorest.

“That could be two things,” he said. “One could be pipes that are fifty or sixty years old that will be replaced starting next summer when we do a complete interior gut [of Purcell].”

The president went on to explain that sediment also gets into the city’s water when the city makes repairs. “It settles to the bottom of the hot water heaters, and over time particularly when the hot water heaters start to get low, that’s when that stuff starts coming in. So, it may be that we just need to flush the hot water heaters out.”

Bryce Griggs, a track athlete, asked about getting a track at Piedmont. Mellichamp said that due to the topography of Piedmont, it’s very hard to build a track for track athletes. He says that building Piedmont’s own track is “on the long-term plan.”

Christian Castro, Purcell Hall RA, asked about possible solutions to his residents’ boredom on campus. “I get bored here, too!” Said Mellichamp. The president said he is currently working with the city’s downtown development program to replace Artifact, Piedmont’s store next to the Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art, with a local sports bar or other business to give students a place to socialize.

SGA President Kanler Cumbass brought up bringing security cameras to the outside of resident halls.

“There’s a real fine line that we have to be careful of here between safety issues that you talk about and what I consider to be an almost intrusive atmosphere. I never want students or faculty or staff who live and work here to feel like Big Brother is spying on them all the time, so it is an issue. My car got hit in the lot between Stewart and GB—this has been ten years ago, fifteen years ago— it was a Mercedes and I was really heartbroken that somebody hit it and didn’t leave me a note about it. That’s probably another area where a camera would be helpful.”

Mellichamp said that the Board of Trustees has approved a plan to make improvements in campus safety, and that the Campus Safety Initiative will be an opportunity to place added safety measures where they are needed around campus.

“Not just in Demorest, but for the Athens campus as well.” Mellichamp said. “[Athens] is kind of a challenging environment for different reasons than ours is. There, we found homeless people living in some of the bushes—between the bushes and the buildings.”

Mellichamp ended the meeting by sharing that Piedmont will continue to make improvements to the on-campus Wi-Fi, which he claims has the highest bandwidth of private colleges in North Georgia, and by promising that tuition increases in the near future will not be as dramatic as the last.

“If you have questions I didn’t answer, ask Dr. Kim [Crawford] to pass it along to me.”