By Katie Krahulik
The Division of Student Affairs offers open office hours with President Stuart Rabinowitz, a unique opportunity meant to foster change and improvement in the community. Yet students claim the office hours are not as “open” as people might think and they feel as though their complaints are not being addressed by the top tier of Hofstra’s administration.
“Presidential Office Hours have been going on for at least the last 10 years. President Rabinowitz and the rest of the administration believe it is vital to get regular feedback from students as a way to develop a deeper understanding of their concerns,” said Colin Sullivan, the director of communications for Student Affairs.
Although the process is defined as “first come, first serve,” when junior fine arts major Gill Pitzer wished to meet with the president to discuss their concerns over mental health care on campus, they were denied the opportunity as it could “not be accommodated” on the basis that it fell outside of President Rabinowitz’s area of expertise.
Pitzer explained that protesters of the new Frank G. Zarb School of Business building had approached Rabinowitz about mental health care on campus. To their question of why counseling requires a fee after three sessions, he responded by saying he was unaware of that policy.
“At the very least, the president of our school should know that something is not free even if he doesn’t know the details about it,” Pitzer said. “I wanted to a) inform him of the fact and b) talk with him about how we can improve on that inaccessibility and quality of care.”
Pitzer signed up for every open hour slot available, but received an email suggesting they schedule a meeting with Executive Director of the Student Health and Counseling Center John Guthman.
The email read, “I know that often times we assume that the president or the leader of any organization is the one who makes all the decisions regarding policies, procedures, and programs. In truth the president relies on others in the organization with expertise in specific areas to oversee and manage those areas.”
Pitzer was disappointed in this response, as their intention was ensuring the president understood Hofstra’s basic mental health care policies. “I feel like important topics like that should get preference,” they said. “Or maybe they should open up more office hours instead of just two days out of the whole semester.”
President Rabinowitz met with 12 students for 15 minutes each on Thursday, Feb. 18 from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and Wednesday, April 20 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the spring 2016 semester.
Vice President of Student Affairs Houston Dougharty invited students to sign up for office hours in an email, saying, “President’s office hours are an opportunity for individual students to share quick thoughts on substantive issues that affect students and the University with the President and me.”
Mika Hawley, a senior film and history major, was able to meet with President Rabinowitz during his office hours. She wanted to bring up her poor experience with the Hofstra shuttle as well as issues she faced registering for classes. Her hopes were that the president would take action on the matters she presented and although Hawley said everyone was very friendly – including President Rabinowitz – she faced a disappointing outcome.
“I felt like the problem wasn’t addressed at all at that tier of the school’s administration,” Hawley said. “I feel like he thinks the point of his office hours is just to let students get out all those pesky emotions, but not actually to fix the problems they address. It felt like a pretty useless exercise.”
After five minutes of listening to President Rabinowitz talk about his vacation home in Aspen, Hawley aired her complaints to which he provided little to no resolution. According to Hawley, he said they know that the Hofstra shuttle is a problem and he suggested she meet with someone better equipped to respond to her registration concerns.
Hawley said, “I kind of thought the point of meeting with the president was so that he would be aware of the problems and start to fix them top-down, not just to be in the same position but have my feelings validated.”