‘Without a doubt the best compromise’

Compromise. That was the theme for the Student Success Act Fee Advisory Committee, as their April 6 meeting ended with major improvements to the Looney Complex and Blum Student Union being agreed upon. With the end of the semester looming, the committee needed to come to a consensus before the end of the year. The committee entered the meeting with two proposals on the table. One proposal from Dr. Cale Fessler, vice president for financial planning and administration, called for additional recreational space for students which would fulfill a major requirement of the 10-year master plan that the university is following to improve the campus. “When we first started this, we had a certain set of information; then we had the master planners on campus and they were in every room and they looked at our campus and had all kinds of people with all sorts of expertise looking at everything,” Daffron said. “Their conclusions were a number of things, but one big thing was the need for recreation space for students… I do feel very strongly that its important if you do have a master plan and if you have all that information that comes with a master-plan… we really need to use that to make decisions, because there is no way that any one of us could know all the things we get from a master plan.” The other proposal, which was from SGA Senator Brian Shewell, focused on a continuous plan to use the funding on five areas around campus. During the two-hour committee meeting, committee members heard the proposals from Fessler and Shewell. Committee members peppered both presenters with questions. Fessler provided the committee with more concrete figures as to the potential cost of upgrading the current Looney pool space into either an improved pool or a multi-purpose recreational facility with three basketball courts and an indoor evaluated walking track. The committee also was considering a previous SSA fee purpose, which was originally approved during Jacob Scott’s SGA administration: a remodel of the second floor of the Blum Student Union. The project that was originally approved was to use three years of the $224,000 per year to improve the second floor of Blum. The first year worth of Blum funding was planning to remodel the space to make it more inviting to students. The second year worth of funding was meant for paint and carpet in the same space. The third year was intended for new technology and furniture. After hearing the arguments for each of the three sides and deliberating for over an hour and a half, Daffron proposed a compromise to the group to fund both the student union project and the recreational space project. The following is an email from Daffron to the committee members detailing her proposal. “I move that the $224,000 in the SSA funds from fiscal year (FY) 2014, the $224,000 from FY 2015 and the balance of funds from FY 2015 (approximately $80,000) be split between the Blum remodeling project and the Looney recreation space project to be consistent with the recommendations from the MWSU Master Plan. The FY 2016 funding will be used to complete those two projects with a three-year total cap of $448,000 for the Blum project and FY 2016 allocations of $70,000 for Baker Fitness Center and $60,000 for Esry Student Health Center.” On the strength of a 4-1 vote by the committee, Daffron’s proposal to split the already collected funds for the two projects as well as next year’s totals was quickly passed. Student representative Mary Beth Rosenauer was pleased with how quickly this decision was reached and the speed that the committee reached a consensus once the proposal was floated. “I think the the idea just came to us very quickly near the end (of the meeting),” Rosenauer said. “I think it seemed very obvious what needed to be done and that’s why it happened so quickly." With this funding, Blum will get its remodel, paint and carpet, but the new furniture and technology with have to be put on the back-burner. The Looney project will be able to be completely funded under this plan. The Daffron proposal earned the support of all three administrators with Daffron, Jerry Pickman, vice president of university advancement and executive director of the MWSU Foundation, and Dr. Kathleen O’Connor, dean of professional studies. The proposition was also able to gain student support in the form of Rosenauer. “I think it is without a doubt the best compromise that we could have made with all the things that are pending and need to be updated on campus. Things that administration wants, but also handling that with things that the students want,” Rosenauer said. The one nay-vote came from Brandon Grieshaber. “(Summing up) my problems,” Grieshaber said. “One, it had a narrow scope of what it could potentially been done for. Two, it did not address the future of the SSA act. Three, we run into a consistency problem to where these funds could potentially be used for anything up to the discretion of the committee.” SGA Senator Haden McDonald, the third student representative on the committee was unable to attend the meeting because of a class conflict. “In future years, I really think we should have a better plan for how we establish our meetings and how we go about a timeline for establishing the SSA,” McDonald said. The SGA was able to hear the first reading of the agreement on the same night that the committee reached their agreement. On April 13, they unanimously passed the resolution. Now, the primary hurdles remaining for the resolution are a trio of signatures. SGA President Daniel Hager, Vice President for Student Affairs Shana Meyer and Western President Dr. Robert Vartabedian all have veto power on the bill. “I was really pleased with how the committee came together to make this compromise, both with students and administration,” Hager said. “They were very professional and clearly from the beginning were looking to cooperate with each other… In my opinion, this is the best decision for the university and students as a whole.” Meyer was also pleased with the progress of this bill. “I think the proposal that was made had the best elements of everything that was on the table,” Meyer said. Hager and Meyer are both expected to approve the agreement and it should land on Vartabedian’s desk in the very near future.

New hoops without damage

When there is a problem on campus that affects student life at Missouri Western, that’s when the Student Government Association is there to help the student population. Many students play basketball at the Commons on the outdoor basketball hoops, but this activity is getting more and more difficult for students that wish to enjoy a nice pick-up game or a game of H.O.R.S.E. The rims at the Commons have been deteriorating since shortly after they were replaced because they were too bent up to serve their purpose. Senator Megan Helt has proposed to the SGA that they spend $4,051.86 out of their special projects fund to attempt to fix this problem with new hoops once and for all. “We are trying to replace the basketball goals outside the Commons,” Helt said. “The ones currently there are indoor-basketball goals, not really suited for [outside].” The plan would provide the space with brand-new basketball hoops that would stand up better to the weather. “The ones that we are trying to purchase are steel ones that are perforated so that the wind can go through them and they have break-away basketball rims so that they are less likely to break,” Helt said. The new backboards and rims would include a 10-year warranty — however, this would likely not protect against people hanging on the rim, which seems to be the main cause of the destruction. The only issue SGA seemed to have with the proposal was if it really was their responsibility to repair the rims, or if that responsibility should fall on residential life. “Basketball goals are available for all student use, not just the use of the students in residential halls, so it will benefit a lot more students than just the ones that live on campus,” Helt said. The budget for the Residential Hall Association last year was $10,000 a semester and was projected to rise this year. “Increasing the experience or environment in the residential area is what RHA takes cares of. It’s kind of like their purpose,” Former RHA President and current Student Governor Lionel Attawia said. “They also have a sizable budget… If RHA didn’t have it in their budget, lets say they’re really doing good stuff and they're really using the money to do a lot of things for residential life and campus environment in general, I can understand why SGA would cover that, but if they have that in there budget… and they are just saving money for something else, then I think it should not be on SGA’s part, just because [RHA] has a sizable budget.” With the growing need on campus for recreational space with the weather becoming more and more Spring-like, this is something that SGA sees as a priority and will be up for a vote on Monday at the SGA senate meeting.

Food pantry approved, coming to campus

One of the most discussed and debated issues in the Student Government Association the last few years has been the inclusion of a food pantry on campus, but it no longer has to be, as the administration has spoken. No matter if SGA supports the project or not, a food pantry will be on campus soon. Nearly two years ago, then-Senator Mary Beth Rosenauer put forth the idea of an on-campus food pantry and SGA did not execute it. Earlier this semester, Senator Brian Shewell proposed the idea for a food pantry again, and again it was nixed by the SGA. “I am extremely excited for it, because I think it's one of those things that is a need, but it hasn’t been addressed yet,” Shewell said. Working with Second Harvest, the Rotaract has stepped forward to lead the charge for an on-campus food pantry and with the support of administration, Western will soon have an option for students that need help getting through the semester. While some students have the need for a service like this, SGA’s concern in the past has been the lack of a plan to prevent students from abusing the pantry and a taking food to save a few dollars despite not really needing it, or to avoid making a trip to Wal-Mart or HyVee. Rotaract Advisor Elise Hepworth acknowledged that that may be a concern, but that the possible positives outweigh any concerns. She said that the pantry will rely on honesty from students. The pantry would be open for students twice a week and students would have the opportunity to get items from the pantry twice a month. Also, students would of course be encouraged to give to the pantry as well to keep it well-stocked for those students and families in need. The pantry will be in Blum 214, which is the former offices of the Western Activities Council. WAC has since moved to the SGA Suite, but many SGA members, including President Daniel Hager, were under the impression that those offices were still SGA rooms. However, that space is now going to house the food pantry whether SGA supports it or not. “It's not necessarily a student versus administration thing: it is a question of where does the SGA have power and influence on change for this campus,” Hager said. Shewell argues that this endeavor is more worthwhile than anything the offices are currently used for. “I don’t think the administration pulled the rug out from under our feet,” Shewell said. “It wasn’t being used, if it was being used it was being used for student class groups to meet to do homework… If it's going to be used now then let it be used.” While Hager admits the timing of his concerns being voiced was less than ideal, that does not change the validity of his concerns. “I'm trying to do my job and make sure that the senators know I’m not just here to be played,” Hager said. “They should question authority all the time.” Shewell also expresses that fault can be taken on both sides for poor communication. “Yes, it would have been nice to let SGA know about it, you know what: there’s a lot of things that SGA does that would have been nice to let other people know about as well,” Shewell said. While the food pantry debate is resolved now, Hager feels that this situation points to a bigger issue. “My biggest thing is just making sure that the senators question authority rather than be submissive to it,” Hager said. Hager is quick to also point out that the SGA likely would have improved the use of the space. The lack of communication between students and faculty is still a valid concern for Hager. “It was just the professionalism of it,” said Hager. “We don’t need to point fingers or fight over something that's going to benefit our campus. I think it's just more of a power thing.”

Broadband doubles in dorms

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Internet bandwidth speeds for Missouri Western residence halls were doubled Wednesday, March 18, from 250 megabits per second (mbps) to 500 mbps. To do so, the university is going to pay $5,250 per month. Western was paying $3,025 for the 250 mbps contract. The increase was proposed by Fred Nesslage, manager of Information Technology Services, after he had noticed a serious problem with past internet speeds. "Between about 7 p.m. and 1 a.m., resident hall internet connection is maxed out," Nesslage said. Which is not a surprise, considering that the university has expected all of the students living on campus to share 250 mbps of internet bandwidth. For those who understand what bandwidth is, this number seems surprisingly low. For those who are more technologically challenged, the data requires a bit of explanation. First off, internet speeds are not a perfect science. The rate of 250 mbps not only assumes a perfect world, where not only does a customer receive the exact internet speeds that a company quotes it with, but also that our hardware can transfer speeds that quickly. For the sake of making a point, we will do some quick calculations with 250 mbps. If 50 residents were all using the internet, in a perfect world, each student would only get about 5 mbps. Bandwidth testing company Ookla explains that the average internet speed for Missouri residents is 40.7 mbps. But, speed tests from Vaselakos Hall show bandwidth speeds ranging from 7 mbps to .3 mbps, with the average speeds hovering at 2 mbps. To put that into perspective, the Federal Communication Commission considers 4 mbps the speed "generally required for using today's video-rich broadband applications and services, while retaining sufficient capacity for basic web browsing and e-mail." After receiving multiple student complaints, Nathan Roberts, director of residential life, took action to resolve these concerns. "I suggested that the VP for Finance increase capacity to 500 mbps so that we had a buffer during high usage times," Roberts said. With help from Nesslage, Roberts made a formal proposal to increase the speeds. The Vice President for Financial Planning and Administration Dr. Cale Fessler agreed with the concerns of Nesslage and Roberts and moved to increase the speeds. But the increase was improved for more than just better Netflix stream and Xbox playing. "Our students on campus do a significant amount of their research, studying and writing with WiFi connected devices," Roberts said. "Enabling an update that speeds up connections is not only convenient, but vital to the academic success of our students on campus." The internet provider for residential housing, Suddenlink, was happy to help the university with the bandwidth update. "We recognize the need for increased speeds and for students to have access to fast online services anywhere on campus," Suddenlink General Manager Lee Ann Smiley said. “Recognizing those needs, we’ve made the investments required to allow the school to double its on-campus Internet speeds to help students complete their work, stay in touch with friends and family and easily access entertainment options.  We’re very happy to be bringing exciting new services to the Missouri Western family." The low internet bandwidth has not been the only problem inhibiting internet performance. In the last semester, there have been five different issues affecting internet performance, aside from bandwidth; issues like faulty hardware and old router software. One of these hardware failures had actually been limiting the 250 mbps bandwidth to nearly 140 mbps since last year. Another of these issues actually caused a complete internet outage the night of February 17 until early the next morning. Mark Mabe, director of Information Technology Services, was most concerned with the department's reaction to concerns such as these. "It was pointed out to us that we had not appropriately communicated to the students what the problem was," Mabe said. Information Technology Services may have had trouble communicating these concerns to students, but Mabe is confident that the updates will please students. "This project will allow us to enhance that service by relocating the wireless antennas and adding additional access points," Mabe said. "The resulting impact will be stronger wireless signal strength, faster throughput speeds and additional user device connectivity." Although speeds have been increased, there is a negative result of the process for students. Since the speed increase comes with a high price tag, those costs are to be put onto students in the form of a housing costs increase. "Passing on cost of services upgrades to the students isn't something anyone ever wants to do, but unfortunately the university operates on a razor-thin budget for utilities and services such as internet," Roberts said. Though the $5,250 per month increase is going to be transferred to residents, in the bigger picture, the cost increase should be minor.

Blum shines at Heart Your Union

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Candy and giveaways highlighted Heart Your Union, as 16 various student organizations and services gathered on the second floor of the Blum Union to show students what they have to offer. This free event was put on by the Student Government association and headed by Senator Brian Shewell, who serves as the Chairman for Campus Advancement Committee. It took place on February 12 from noon to three in the afternoon. Organizations present included recreational services, sororities and fraternities and student clubs and organizations. Gifts included fleece blankets from Student Affairs, folding chairs from the SGA and hair care products along with teddy bears from the Nontraditional and Commuter Student Center. Students were also able to take part in free massages, henna tattoos, cookie decorating and H.I.V. Testing. “We looked at what events and what groups we did last year,” Shewell said. “We decided to change it up this year. During International Fair, we saw that henna was a huge hit.... The massages are always a huge hit and last year we actually ran out of cookies.” The Student Affairs office had perhaps the most important issue for students to consider. With the university moving in the direction of executing a master plan, which was formulated by by independent master planners, the pool area in the Looney Complex was a major area in need of improvement. Student Affairs asked students to fill out a survey about their personal usage of the pool. These form will be available for any students who were unable to attend Heart Your Union in the Student Affairs office in Blum 228. The forms ask if you knew their was a swimming pool for students on campus, if you have ever used it, and if you think the university should keep the pool or replace it with other form of recreational space and what you would like that space to contain. Joe Nash, a student helping with the Student Affairs booth, believes that events like these help to keep students aware of their union. “I have class with some people who don't even know there is a second floor to the union so its important for people to 'heart' their union, by knowing it exists,” Nash said. The event grew substantially from the previous year when they were not able to fill the tables that they were provide and this year they had to bring in extra tables according to Jessica Frogge, Administrative Coordinator for SGA.