SGA Hosts Open Forum for Student Concerns



Hannah Osborne, Staff Writer

SGA President Michael Mack organizes an open forum for students to discuss topics with Piedmont’s executive staff for February 3, 2022. Topics discussed include accessibility on campus, the status of Mystic hall, and discourse on lab ventilation and outdated equipment.

Among the panel, President Mellichamp was accompanied by executives: Brant Wright, Craig Rogers, Dan Silber, Kim Crawford, Madison Smith, and Hank Knight. Following introductions, the panel opened the floor to questions from the attendees. Despite the promotion of the event, only thirteen students attended. Forum discussion ranged from the relocation of education professors’ offices to issues relating to accessibility.

As of recent, professor offices have been adjusted in what Dan Silber, Senior Vice President and Provost of Academic Affairs, describes as a “domino effect.” Education major Austin Bond expresses concern that the relocation of the education department to the first floor of the Sewell Center for Teacher Education stunts the comfortability of discussions pertaining to personal matters or concerns. Dan Silber assures that despite education professors now being located in a flex space concept, private space and rooms are still available when needed. When challenged on why the space was prioritized to the nursing department, Silber claims the space has always been intended for the department due to space and equipment demands available in Daniel.

Mass Communications junior Caden Nelms, who requires wheelchair accessibility, points out that the Swanson Center does not have accessible curve cuts. Nelms said that accessibility to the Swanson footbridge would be the ideal option for traveling across campus. Currently, Nelms has to travel along College Drive to reach the Swanson Center. Accessibility to the footbridge would provide a safer and more convenient route for Nelms. Hank Knight, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management and Safety, agrees to look into a solution for the lack of curve cuts in the Swanson parking lot and suggests paving the golf cart path that would give access to the footbridge. In addition, Knight discloses that the university is currently working with the city to final repairs on Georgia Street, which will add sidewalks to either side of the street with barriers.

Mystic Hall, the new location for freshmen dorms, is set to open this coming fall semester. With the opening of the new hall, Purcell Hall, which currently serves as the freshmen residence hall, will close following the current spring semester to begin renovations. Drawings are yet to be finalized, but the board hopes that Purcell will reopen by spring semester 2023. Kim Crawford, Vice President of Student Life and Leadership describes Mystic as, “state of the art, with incredible views, community kitchen spaces, and laundry facilities on each floor. Mystic is unlike any other resident hall on this campus, and these incoming students get the first opportunity to live there.”

Shay Bataille, sophomore RA in Purcell, asks how the board plans to further promote inclusivity as this issue concerns a number of her residents. Brant Wright, Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance, speaks of a new hire in HR to serve as Assistant Director for Human Resources and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The school is working on new software to assist in the hiring process to promote an inclusive and diverse staff with proper training on DEI. A major component of this plan is the university-wide strategic plan, referred to by both President Mellichamp and Crawford. Crawford extends that she would like to see student involvement in these programs to hear their voice stating, “We can learn from you, just like you can learn from us.”

At the request of the panel, attendees divulge their highlights of Piedmont University. In collective agreeance, students conclude, the people, specifically professors and advisers. Senior Taylor Hawkins attributes her recent acceptance to vet school to her adviser Dr. Wooten, stating, “She has impacted my life more than I would have ever thought possible…not only as my adviser, but as a professor and a friend.” Multiple students chimed in with similar experiences to Hawkins, noting the understanding and support they received from the community during hardships. Bond declares, “My professors are invested in me, just as much as I am invested in them.”

In closing statements, President Mellichamp speaks on current and future plans of action to improve the university. The school has made an investment over a million dollars of what student technology fees cover to install about 100 data points for every building on campus to help ensure the 5G bandwidth that is paid for, is possible. These installments have been set back due to the supply chain disruption, but the first wave of data points are set to be installed over spring break. This investment stands as the largest financial commitment of the institution in its history. Additionally, President Mellichamp is working on the USA South Presidents’ Council to split the USA South Conference into two smaller conferences, meaning that student-athletes will not be traveling so far to games due to the smaller geographical footprint.

SGA President Michael Mack hopes that future forums can be planned more conveniently to students’ schedules to allow a larger attendance. President Mack says, “These open forums were made to keep an open dialogue between the University’s administration and student body. To maintain this channel of communication as a crucial asset on a small campus.”