“A Night with the Presidents” gives students needed answers to pressing questions

Caroline Buck, Staff Writer

On Oct. 29, students gathered in Trout Auditorium for “A Night With the Presidents.” The annual Bucknell Student Government (BSG) event gives students the opportunity to submit questions to University President John Bravman, Dean of Students Amy Badal and BSG President Kip Hallagan ’21.

“A Night With the Presidents” was first held in 2017 as a way for the administration to directly address students’ concerns about the University, breaking down the wall between the students and the administration to promote transparency.

“I believe that with any major investment of time and resources, transparency is essential. It is important that students know where their money is going to today, but also what the administration is doing to improve the University for tomorrow,” Hallagan said.

The night consisted of two portions: pre-submitted questions and open microphone questions. Students were encouraged by BSG to submit questions for the administration prior to the event, particularly concerning topics they are passionate about. If students wanted clarification on any administrative answer or their concern was not addressed, there was an open mic portion. 

The night kicked off with food and drinks provided for attendees, and the pre-submitted questions portion began after a brief welcoming. These questions all circled around similar themes of sexual assault, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, dining, housing, the role of BSG and academic cohesion between colleges. 

The administration recognized the problems students and staff face on campus and acknowledged that more should be done. For example, the first question raised concerns about the process of reporting sexual assault on campus, and the general culture surrounding sexual assault. They responded by praising and raising awareness of the current resources offered for these issues but also recognized this is a major problem students face. 

The focus was next drawn to sustainability; questions were posed about the University’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, and the movement to shut down the on-campus cogeneration plant. Bravman took the lead on this topic, explaining that a lack of funds is what holds the University back from doing more for the environment. While the University does what it can to decrease its carbon footprint, like building Academic West, the South Campus Apartments and Academic East as LEED Gold Certified facilities, efforts to minimize the environmental impact of energy usage on campus are extremely expensive. 

The following question asked about the lack of diversity on campus among students and the workforce. Badal emphasized the intensive diversity training that BSG, Residential Advisers, Orientation Assistants and other leaders on campus must take part in. However, she agreed that these types of actions are “only scratching the surface.” The University has many more steps to take in improving diversity and inclusion, and the administration acknowledged that without hesitation.

The University’s contract with Parkhurst Dining and the implications that relationship has for the price of students’ meal plans was given as an explanation for the high prices of food on campus and food insecurity. The conversation subsequently shifted to ongoing efforts by the administration to improve student dining, such as using the leftover money from graduated students’ dining dollars towards the B-Eats program.

Another central issue of the night was housing, as many students have experienced moldy rooms and bursting pipes. The main problem with housing, like sustainability, is that there is not enough money for renovation and construction. While Bravman explained that there is a plan for the renovation of housing, a lack of proper funds often holds the University back from making these changes. He reminded students that “everything we want to do for you takes up resources,” explaining that there is simply not enough money to get these things done.

In the open mic portion of the night, students posed questions continuing with the theme of dining and sustainability. They inquired about the low wages of University staff, the secrecy of the Parkhurst contract, investment in the fossil fuel industry and plans for solar energy. 

“A Night With the Presidents” is “to give students a direct line of contact with President Bravman and Dean Badal in order for them to give constructive feedback about their Bucknell experience,” BGG Sophomore Vice President Caroline Tattersfield ’22 said. The event was successful in giving students this opportunity to get needed answers about major problems students and staff face on campus.

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