A resolution allowing Binghamton University students to anonymously submit written complaints about their residential housing communities was recently passed in the Student Association (SA) Congress but has been prohibited from implementation by BU Residential Life.
The Centering Communications Act amends the constitutions of all residential student housing communities at BU to require the implementation of a physical “Your Concerns” box for residents to submit their concerns to. The resolution requires every residence hall to place one of these boxes in or around the resident assistants’ (RA) office, and paper for complaints must be provided as well. Students could submit concerns that pertain to any issue regarding their housing community, such as their living conditions, conflicts or safety issues.
The resolution passed in the SA Congress on Nov. 9 with a majority of 15 out of 18 votes. It was written by Chance Fiorisi, an undeclared freshman, who is a representative of the College-in-the-Woods housing community in the SA Congress. Fiorisi described the inspiration for the resolution.
“I live in Onondaga [Hall], and my floormates had an incident where they felt as if they were not being heard, as if they did not have a voice,” Fiorisi wrote in an email. “I knew I could change that, so I went back to my laptop and started my work on the legislation.”
Fiorisi said he decided to advocate for a physical location for students to voice their complaints because he felt that having a physical outlet to express concerns was beneficial to students.
“I knew that the best thing for students would be the relief of having a physical remedy for having their concerns met,” Fiorisi wrote. “And what made it even more clear was when I went around [College-in-the-Woods] talking with students [to see] if they would agree with having a physical box, the response was overwhelmingly positive and that made it clear to me the most.”
If Residential Life decides to approve the legislation, once the boxes are fully established throughout campus, the grievances of residents will be read and addressed by the residence hall council of the building. The grievances are presented during the council meetings, with significant concerns addressed at larger community meetings. The aim of this is to allow student complaints to be directly addressed by residence hall councils and SA delegations for housing communities, according to the resolution’s impact statement and Fiorisi. The resolution does not affect BU students living off campus.
Fiorisi believes that the establishment of “Your Concerns” boxes will have a positive effect on students living on campus, by giving elected student representatives a more direct way to address concerns.
“This bill gives greater responsibility for student governments, to work for the ones who elected them,” Fiorisi wrote. “As well as students who need a voice, they now have that with their representatives. I would like to think that nothing negative can come from students having their concerns heard.”
Ian Simolo, a junior majoring in business administration, lives in the Hillside Community on campus and believes that this resolution will be a good way for students to get help more directly.
“We don’t have anything like that up in Hillside [Community], which would be cool,” Simolo said. “Not that I’ve ever had any problems, just that it would be cool to not have to cut through any of the paperwork or the jargon of it. So it really makes it just a direct shot to get help.”
Another student, Moshe Koenigsberg, an undeclared sophomore, feels that allowing students to submit anonymous complaints is a good way to approach student grievances.
“If a student has an issue with their RA, they might not know who to go to or not feel comfortable going to anyone, so if they have an issue with their RA they might be able to put that in there,” Koenigsberg said. “I don’t see this as being a bad idea. I feel like it could definitely benefit all of the buildings and allow people to express their concerns in an anonymous way. I do expect there to be some nonserious reports in there. I know some people who would put in some nonserious reports, but I think generally, for the most part, it will be pretty effective.”
Residential Life’s disapproval is a major obstacle to having these boxes implemented on campus, now that the legislation has been passed.
Jacob Singleton, executive vice president of the Dickinson Town Council (DTC) and a sophomore majoring in business administration, explained how the DTC, as well as all other residential housing community governments, are unable to abide by the resolution due to restrictions from Residential Life.
“After speaking with an assistant director within Residential Life, the [assistant directors] and [assistant coordinators] met and deemed that Residential Life will not allow any form of physical complaint boxes to be placed within the residential halls,” Singleton wrote.
In addition to the challenge of not being allowed to physically put these boxes into place in residence halls, the DTC also does not believe that the boxes will ultimately affect how they handle student complaints.
“We are aware that this bill was passed due to issues within another college council, but we have never had problems like they apparently had,” Singleton wrote. “Every one of our meetings has a public comment portion, our head E-Board meets with their respective littles at least biweekly, and the hall presidents meet weekly with the [executive vice president] and are already tasked at collecting student complaints. Not to mention that all of our elected officials are residents of Dickinson [Community], we all live here and see and say the problems if they occur.”
In response to the disputes over the implementation of “Your Concerns” boxes, Fiorisi said he believes having a physical box is beneficial for addressing student complaints.
“Students need to feel empowered to want to talk about the issues they have about their living communities, that’s what this box will give to students, empowerment,” Fiorisis wrote. “I would argue that seeing a physical box would be more empowering than a Google Form, and even groups such as the [Student Life and Academics Committee (SLA)] agree on that aspect, and they oversee the concerns [of students in the] Google Form.”
While the mandate for housing communities to install “Your Concerns” boxes has already been passed by the SA Congress, they will not be able to be fully established until the dispute with Residential Life has been resolved.
Fiorisi addressed the difficulty of enacting this legislation despite student demand for it, as well as the future of “Your Concerns” boxes.
“My job as a student representative is to work for the people and by the people, and I believe I and we as SA Congress have done that with this legislation,” Fiorisi wrote. “The more informed student [representatives] are about concerns facing our student body, the more effective we can be in solving those issues. If Residential Life wishes to prevent these boxes from going to the dorms, then I’m afraid that would be a major disservice to students on campus.”