With Student Association (SA) elections just six weeks away, this year’s Executive Board hosted a town hall meeting Monday to address the organization’s performance over the past semester.
Around 70 attendees listened to SA President Jermel McClure, a senior majoring in political science, give his State of the Student Association address, where he unveiled the new SA mission statement, core values and goals in an effort to clarify the purpose and focus of the organization.
“The Student Association is dedicated to providing undergraduate students with leadership opportunities, professional development, and exceptional services,” the revised mission statement reads. “The Student Association enriches the lives of undergraduate students in advance of their social, political and academic interests here at Binghamton University.”
Additionally, McClure discussed the newly updated Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) website, which he said should be more user-friendly. McClure’s speech also touched on the new text alert system, where students can text “Follow @OCCT” to 40404 in order to get updates on any bus schedule delays or changes. Both of these reforms were part of McClure’s platform when running for office.
McClure also remarked on the recent addition of West Side route buses during rush hours, and said it has been successful in reducing overcrowding. The SA plans to add even more buses to the fleet by this fall.
Currently, the SA and OCCT are still in the process of negotiating a new three-year contract, but McClure assured the audience that even with New York state’s minimum wage hike, bus driving will still remain the highest-paid job on campus.
Mental health was also a central focus of the speech, including a proposal to rebrand the High Hopes Helpline, the University’s peer-to-peer support line, so more people know they can call the number for any issue they may be facing, from anxiety to career worries.
“This is super important because there are a lot of misconceptions about what High Hopes Helpline is and how it can be used on campus,” McClure said. “With rebranding, we want to get rid of some of those old misconceptions and make sure everyone understands how the service is supposed to be used.”
The SA is considering adding a text-chat service component where students can type to a trained volunteer if they feel uncomfortable talking on the phone. People who volunteer to respond to students undergo training by the University Counseling Center (UCC) and may now receive two internship credits for their service. In his initial platform, McClure also hoped to work with the UCC on diversity initiatives in staff hiring, but said little headway has been made, as the right applicants have not been available.
In addition, McClure addressed the SA’s success in adding more counseling hours on campus, as well as enforcing the University policy that says no professor can administer an exam during the last week of class. Pipe Dream reported in December that professors have continued to violate the policy.
Some of the SA E-Board’s campaign promises that were brought to fruition during the past year were mentioned in the speech, including decreasing the wait time for reimbursement vouchers by three to seven days and trying to hire more diverse faculty. Nevertheless, other goals have yet to be achieved, such as making the University more handicapped-accessible.
After the address, the e-board sat to answer student inquiries. All questions were required to fall within four overarching topics: dining services, mental health, parking and diversity, equity and inclusion. Rebecca Ho, the SA vice president for finance and a senior majoring in business administration, said these topics were chosen because they seemed to be the most contentious issues among the SA Student Congress and affect a large percentage of the student body.
Students raised a variety of concerns, such as food options at the University Downtown Center, lowering the price of parking passes, hiring more diverse faculty and making feminine hygiene products more accessible to students.
Members of the SA E-Board emphasized that they want to hear more student input, either by a direct email to them or by speaking to a Student Congress representative, so they can better respond to student needs. Ho said that often, rhetoric from the SA and University administration gets convoluted and she wants to be able to get messages out more clearly.
“I think miscommunication is the No. 1 issue,” Ho said. “We need to keep trying to bring and invite the everyday student body representative to come in and speak rather than just those who have highly controversial views.”
Bianca Amanini, a sophomore majoring in psychology, went to the town hall and said she was disappointed there was not a higher turnout, considering the amount of people who knew about the event and are affected by these issues.
“These are things are I want to see changes in,” Amanini said. “I am involved in campus and I like to be involved in the political side as well. People have a lot of opinions, but when it comes to showing up, there are not that many people here.”