The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

What you missed at SGA: Meeting interim president and University Suites updates

February 7, 2023

The Student Government Association welcomed interim president Bonita Brown to speak about outreach and University Housing Director Scott Patton to answer questions related to University Suites at this week’s meeting.

“People ask me what I plan to do in this interim period and I tell them I plan to keep us moving forward. NKU is a great institution, we are here for you all, for your support, and I want to make sure you don’t feel any lapse in that support while we’re searching for a permanent president,” Brown said.

She invited students to walk with her around campus once her new tennis shoes arrive, and said she is looking forward to an event where students can have pizza with the president.

When the floor opened for questions, senators raised the issues of NKU’s administrators not being very approachable to students and some information not being adequately communicated by the university, such as the option to substitute a test for a whole class.

“When you’re a new student, you’re orienting and we throw everything at you, right? How do we accelerate or raise up what’s important in the midst of everything?” Brown said in response to the questions.

Asked about the causes behind NKU’s budget deficit, the president listed the declining number of students enrolled at NKU, a recovering economy that offers jobs without a degree, competition from other schools and a need for new recruitment strategies.

“I think before we were a little comfortable when people were coming, now we need to be more proactive and we’ve got to ramp up and figure out how to do that,” Brown explained.

Chairwoman of the University Improvements Committee Lucy Burns suggested training NKU student tour guides to better present the university to prospective students. Other senators recommended expanding recruitment efforts to veterans and having NKU graduates speak at local high schools. SGA President Daniel Myers brought up more attractive merchandise that comes with more informative conversations about the university.

Scott Patton followed with updates on the status of University Suites, which suffered significant flooding damages, mostly in the north wing, from burst water pipes over winter break. Remediation efforts are ongoing at the suite, insurance claims adjusters are assessing damage and students in the north wing have been relocated to other residence halls, predominantly Northern Terrace, which was previously taken offline due to an insufficient number of juniors and seniors to keep it occupied.

Patton shared that University Housing is auxiliary, meaning it does not receive state funding but relies entirely on students’ rent for revenue. When asked if damage to students’ belongings would be covered by insurance, he reminded that all students who live on campus are required to have renter’s insurance as part of the contract they sign with University Housing.

“I recommend for everybody as you pursue your adult life, never live anywhere without renter’s insurance, because there will be pipes that burst, there will be someone who leaves a candle on and burns down the building. If that doesn’t happen to you, count yourself very lucky,” Patton said, adding that in his 15 years of working in housing at multiple universities, it is very common for a major catastrophe to happen to a building and compromise students’ belongings every year.

Senator Lei Wydman suggested making renter’s insurance options more visible to students when they sign housing contracts. On that point, Patton said that housing was considering contacting residents for proof that they actually have renter’s insurance and to assist them with it.

On concerns of students’ belongings being stolen from University Suites, Patton listed eleven different universities that also experienced flooding damage and theft of belongings over this winter break, where the temperature fell to -30 degrees. When a litigation company comes to assess damage but has no ties to the institution, Patton said it is possible for items to end up stolen.

He did not exclude the possibility of some items sustaining damage to the point that it is identified as beyond recovery and discarded, though there is no official process for checking in with students. He gave the example of a two-seater couch in a resident’s suite that the ceiling fell on when it collapsed.

“[The couch] was so saturated with moisture because of the cushioning, we wouldn’t be able to dry out the room the same way we would need to remediate the moisture and damage. We took that couch, we moved it down to a more secure location,” Patton recalled, adding that though housing always errs on the side of caution in that situation, an item might become so damaged that it might be better for its owner to identify it as missing or damaged and arrange to have it removed from the space.

Housing would take care of dry cleaning of salvageable items and discard unsalvageable ones so long as they are identified as such by residents, Patton said. He is not sure if University Suites would be operational again by the beginning of the summer, because as they continue to investigate they have found more cracked pipes and leakage in the walls. The timeline has been pushed up so that rooms on the north wing will receive new flooring, walls, ceilings and furniture around May 8, when students start moving out of the dorms.

“There was no indication that there would be an issue [with University Suites] even in -30 degree weather. Similarly, we had no belief we were going to have an issue with Commonwealth or Norse Hall either,” Patton said of preventative maintenance at on-campus housing. “There’s no way to go into the building and rip out all of the walls and look at all of the pipes without doing a complete remodel … It’s not really a matter of things being in bad shape so much as a really unlikely weather event that has not happened in the state of Kentucky for over 60 years.”

Following the two speakers, SGA unanimously voted to accept Amari Johnson, history major with minors in Black studies, entrepreneurship and English, as a senator candidate.

Senator Dylan McMasters then presented an initiative requesting for more detailed and sufficient nutritional information on the Dine on Campus mobile app. The initiative states that current nutritional information for food at the Student Union food court, Norse Commons and Callahan Bistro in the app is often incomplete and inaccurate, posing a powerful health concern for students who may have allergies or dietary restrictions, including those on religious grounds.

In answer to last week’s Boots to the Ground question, “What is your biggest frustration at NKU?” senators reported on the inconsistent food quality at Norse Commons, uncommunicative offices for student account services and financial aid, and unhelpful advisors for first-year students.

President Myers and the Student Experience Task Force will be interviewing the deans of colleges and student organization leaders this week, as well as faculty, staff and students next week. The survey for students is ready for sending out, while the survey for faculty and staff needs to be approved by university administrators. Myers hopes it will be an opportunity to uplift students’ voices and change NKU for the better.

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