Students Grill Administration at Town Hall


Emma Marti, Staff Writer

Students and administrators came ready to play hardball on the issues students are invested in during a Town Hall with President James F. Mellichamp. On Feb. 17, the Student Government Association hosted its annual Town Hall meeting where students have the opportunity to come together and voice their concerns and opinions with members of Piedmont’s faculty and staff. 

One of the concerns that multiple students shared was related to graduation, specifically whether or not they can wear stoles during the ceremony. Several nursing students took this opportunity to voice their opinion as to why they believe they should wear their stoles. One of those students is junior nursing major Megan Burchfield.

“We’re here about the new protocol about stoles in the handbook. We want to say that each program in this school works extremely hard, nursing being one of them, with over 100 clinical hours per semester which doesn’t even count studying or anything else,” said Burchfield. “Programs here work really hard and we want to differentiate ourselves at graduation. Can we ask, what is the primary issue with the stoles?”

VP for Academic Affairs Dan Silber is a member of the committee who designs the commencement ceremony, so he was qualified to share his response. 

“We try to come up with a look for the ceremony that reflects the gravity of the occasion. We did find that the stoles were rather wide, bright and that they covered Latin honor medallions recognizing Magna Cum Laude, Summa Cum Laude and so forth,” said Silber.” “Obviously, we want to honor the hard work that students put in, but they tend to overshadow the medallions. We wanted to have a uniformly dignified style for the ceremony. For that reason, we thought that a reasonable compromise was to have cords rather than stoles.”

After losing one of its counselors, Piedmont College is working with an online resource called Virtual Care Group, which allows students to get counseling that is promised by the school without having to physically sit down with a counselor. This decision has been met with mixed reactions, especially in regards to the topic of payment. 

Sean Ogle, a junior chemistry major, was the first student to speak at the Town Hall, and this was his main concern. 

“My question is about the emails that were recently sent out about the counseling services. I was wondering if the plan to have the phone call counseling alternative is temporary, due to scheduling with only having one person available, or is this a permanent fix?” Said Ogle. “My other question has to do with paying for this service because there are three free sessions. How are we going to give students the counseling services that we promise to give them?”

The microphone was originally handed off to Perry Rettig, Vice President for Enrollment Management. He informed the audience that Piedmont has been planning on implementing this change in addition to the in-person counseling that the school offers. Rettig then handed the microphone to Assistant Vice President Student Affairs Emily Pettit. 

“I really want to make this clear to you guys, this is a new service for us and I want to get feedback. We would like to continue using this service, but only if we hear back from students that the service is valuable and meeting the need to support you guys,” said Pettit. “The first three are complimentary each semester, I don’t think that I put that in my email. This isn’t meant to replace face-to-face counseling, it’s meant to be a supplement. Not everyone needs potentially more than three and that’s how it’s meant to start out.”

In the upcoming years, Piedmont is going to be making some changes to its housing facilities, specifically Getman-Babcock Hall, Wallace Hall and Purcell Hall. Marketing and finance major Sara McKellar began this discussion about issues relating to Getman-Babcock. 

“My first year staying there, it was in constant disrepair. I feel as though it could be invaluable to the retention rate if the very first acquired housing building isn’t okay to live in,” said McKellar. “There are a lot of issues that make the girls feel uncomfortable and I’ve seen plenty of freshman girls go home. Statistically, going home every single weekend lowers the potential to stay in college.”

Vice President of Administration and Finance Brant Wright handled the response to this question. 

“We are going to the next board meeting with a plan to break ground late this summer on a new dorm, which will allow us to move the folks in Purcell out to refurbish the inside,” said Wright. “Once that is completed, G-B and Wallace will be taken offline. With the new dorm, we will have an addition of 92 beds.” 

McKellar also brought up the issue of the quality roads on campus. President Mellichamp took the microphone to give his response to whether or not improving the roads is under the school’s jurisdiction or not. 

“We find ourselves in the city of Demorest and the upkeep of roads and sidewalks is not Piedmont College’s responsibility,” said Mellichamp. “The mayor of the city of Demorest is a biology professor at Piedmont College. If you don’t like the roads or sidewalks that the city of Demorest maintains, tell the mayor of Demorest, because I’m tired of being asked to fix the damn things.”