Members of the community convened in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center for the University Senate’s Annual Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, March 1, where students voiced their opinions and made suggestions to campus administration regarding a variety of issues. For nearly four hours, senior administrators – including President Stuart Rabinowitz, Provost Gail Simmons and Vice President of Facilities and Operations Joseph Barkwill – answered questions from students.
Students were vocal about aspects of life at Hofstra that were in need of improvement, including transportation to the city, the expansion of organic dining options and overall support for Hofstra’s Jewish population.
Elisheva Brodie, a freshman accounting and legal studies major, brought her concerns to the panel about staying kosher on campus.
“It seems like the kosher kitchen is never open,” Brodie said. “Especially with Passover coming up, I’m worried that there’s going to be nothing to eat … I just want to make sure that the Jewish voice on campus is heard.”
Once Brodie’s concern was heard, Hofstra Rabbi Dave Siegel assured the crowd that every student’s perspective mattered and will be taken into consideration.
“These are conversations that we have to have,” Siegel said. “If we’re not having these conversations, then we’re not doing our job. So, I certainly welcome anyone to come to the Interfaith Center, whether it’s to speak to me or any of the other chaplains.”
Another student addressed the panel requesting there be more organic food options on campus.
In response to this, Vice President of Student Affairs W. Houston Dougherty said, “We rewrote the Request for Proposal (RFP) from what our standard RFP had been to accentuate issues like organic food, Halal food – which wasn’t asked for in the previous RFP – in addition to kosher food and more local foods. Now of course, those come with a cost, right? But I think as a committee, we want to try to balance the quality and the variety with reasonable cost.”
In regard to the overall conversation, Savannah Lake, a freshman psychology major, said that Hofstra administrators are doing their job the best they can. “I was interested to hear their response in regards to providing cheaper transportation to New York City,” Lake said, mentioning that for her, getting a potential internship would depend on LIRR rates being lowered for Hofstra students. “They did mention that they have contacted the Long Island Railroad about discounted student rates, and I can tell they are trying their best to fight for solutions for us.”
Other students addressed concerns regarding transportation including a senior who struggles to get to his internship on time due to the inconsistent shuttle schedule. He expressed dissatisfaction in the fact that the shuttle seldom stops at Mineola during the week. “My question is why does the shuttle that leaves from the Student Center at 7:17 a.m., not also go to the Mineola Station where there’s a train that leaves every 15 or 20 minutes? At the same time, it also allows for students who are going to the Mineola Station to get weekly or monthly passes just to Mineola instead of having to get passes to both Mineola and Hempstead.”
Karen O’Callaghan, the director of Public Safety, said “The main reason is we can’t pay another driver … It’s not cost effective to have another driver.”
Charles J. Forrest, the associate director of Public Safety, responded to the student by saying that they pride themselves on being on time. “The train that goes to Hempstead is always on time,” Forrest said. He implored students to call Public Safety with any questions or concerns.
In addition to the question and answer panel, the Senate also premiered a video showcasing Hofstra’s newest inclusivity campaign, #YouAreWelcomeHere. The video showed a diverse array of Hofstra community members passing a globe back and forth, emphasizing the fact that everybody is welcome on campus.
They also presented a video announcing this year’s student climate survey, which is administered in order to find out how each student experiences the university, and how to bring about improvements to it in order to make the campus the best that it can be.
As the discussion wrapped up for the day, many students were able to walk away with their specific dilemma acknowledged and hopes that it will be resolved. Yet despite the satisfaction of individual students, some like Brodie emphasized that sometimes attending events like this is not just about getting a response but just simply being heard.
“I really do think it’s important for Hofstra to hold meetings like this to listen to our opinions,” Brodie said. “Because oftentimes people can try to avoid your questions, especially when it comes to emails. But here nobody can really avoid your questions – you’re here, and you’re staring them right in the face.”
President Stuart Rabinowitz concluded the meeting by saying he hopes students can take more away from the event than just answers to their questions. “You do attend a university where the faculty, the staff and the administration care about you and care about hearing about your problems,” Rabinowitz said. “So, even if you didn’t like the answer to a particular question, I think you should come away with that. We will have this event every year as we have in the past and other events where we need to listen to you and we will.”