New Greek Plaza to brighten Juda Hall’s backyard

Greek life at Missouri Western will soon be enhanced even more with an outdoor plaza behind Juda Hall. The new circular plaza will be used by Greek organizations for ceremonies and as a recruiting tool. Greeks have never had a place to call their own on campus until now, with the new Greek Village and Greek Plaza giving them that space. The placement of the plaza next to the Greek Village and close to Downs Drive was no accident. “The location of the plaza was Dean of Enrollment Management Howard McCauley’s suggestion,” Director of Residential Life Mark Stier said. “When you visit other campuses, you see the presence of Greek life and we didn’t have that.” Stier credits the initial vision for the plaza to Western’s President, Dr. Robert Vartabedian, and the Greek organizations themselves. “The leaders in Student Affairs and the Greek themselves really deserve the credit for the work on the Greek Village,” Vartabedian said. “I have just encouraged them to promote an expansion of Greek Life on our campus.” He also noted that the plaza could help students to better “connect” with each other and with university life in general. “We are focusing on increasing opportunities for students to be engaged on campus and to feel part of the campus,” Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Judy Grimes said. “We want to encourage more students to live on campus and have increased many late-night events for them.” The Greek Village and Greek Plaza are parts of the response to the consultant’s report that was completed a few years ago Grimes said. She also pointed out that the report is still on the student affairs website. Ten Greek organizations will be represented with one of 15 benches with the name of the organization and the Western emblem. These benches will be placed in a large outer circle with three benches in the inner circle. In the center of the circle will be a rock that is to be painted and maintained by each group with their colors, name and handprints at different times of the school year. This project was financed with monies left over from the Residential Hall Association’s budget. “Their sole purpose is the enhancement of residential life for the betterment of the community,” Stier said. “Because the Greek village is a part of residential life a portion of the project came from them, the other portion came from Dr. Grimes and student government.” Stier also credits a great deal of the planning success to the SGA as they assisted him in getting all of the Greek organizations together for several meetings to get their input for the design of the plaza. Usually freshmen at Western are not allowed in Juda. Stier is making an exception to the rule for those who pledge Greek. There are still spaces available in the original west wing of the Greek Village in Juda. There are nine units available and they could be doubled up if necessary. With 70 new men showing interest in pledging Greek and the women’s side still pledging, those spaces could go fast. At most Juda could hold 120 Greeks if the entire building was used for Greek housing.

Griffon Hall problems reach a peak, Stier addresses solutions

By this time next year, residents of Griffon Hall will hopefully have all complaints put to rest. Mark Stier, Director of Residence Life, said that all new facilities have issues and with Griffon Hall, there are issues but they are minor. Part of the problem with the residence is the amount of time it takes for maintenance to come and fix problems. Stier said Griffon Hall doesn’t use the same maintenance people as the other halls. Currently the dormitory is under a one year warranty; when major issues develop, maintenance must first contact the original contractors in order to avoid voiding any building or equipment warrantees. “Our maintenance staff will of course do all the cleaning and minor maintenance issues,” Stier said. “However, larger items need to be evaluated to determine if they are part of the warranty process.” The issues that seem to concern students deal mostly with hearing thuds when it’s windy, sinks falling apart and holes in the walls that don't hold electrical outlets. Bridget Janssen, RHA President and Griffon Hall resident, said that she likes Griffon Hall overall, but does see room for improvement. She said one of her concerns was the suites not having microwaves when other halls do. Stier said that they did a comparison of off-campus facilities and none of them come with microwaves unless they are built in. He said each commons area in the residence halls has microwaves and most students bring microwaves with them. “We are trying to compete with other off-campus facilities,” Stier said. “Our facilities match or exceed the others.” Residents of Griffon Hall are concerned with not having Ethernet cables in the rooms. Griffon Hall resident Jenny McCutchan said there is one internet jack in each suite, but it’s not in a place easy to access. “The Ethernet cable is tucked away in the corner behind the couch,” McCutchan said. Stier said part of the reason there are not Ethernet cables in the rooms is because Western has a strong wireless connection. He said the university is providing top-quality internet service and that only having one internet jack in the living room was sufficient enough. Stier doesn’t really know how the university plans to address this issue. Dr. Vartabedian has made it very clear that the residence halls are a major focus for his administration, Stier said. He said the President toured all the residence halls in December to ensure that any concerns regarding the halls were personally voiced to him. “Issues brought up were immediately addressed by facilities and Residencial Life,” Stier said. Griffon Hall resident Alaina Rickard said that one problem is a thud that seems to come from the roof. “When it’s windy outside it sounds like a thunderstorm,” Rickard said. “It sounds like something’s falling from the roof.” Stier said he hasn’t heard of this problem yet. He said that he is more than willing to check out the problem, and said there might be something up there that may have come loose. “There is an access panel to the roof that only maintenance has access too,” Stier said. “We can check on that.” Other students feel that the hall's noisiness deals mainly with installation problems. "Sometimes you can hear people stomping,"  resident Devin Negrete said. "It also depends if you have someone living in the complex next to you. I did and I can hear the T.V. If they blared it, I could hear the T.V. straight through the wall." Resident Lindsey Jackson noted that she often hear stomps and loud thuds in the halls. She also stated that their kitchen sink was broken as well. However, maintenance fixed the issue three days after they put in their request. "There is not very good insulation in the walls," Jackson said. "Even running in the hall you can hear it. It's like a herd of elephants.It's just little things that could be fixed." Stier said that his crew and the Residence Hall Director for Griffon Hall, Danny Thompson, will not go through Griffon Hall until the end of the school year when students leave. At that time they will be able to go through and document any problems that they see and fix them. “We will go room to room, bathroom to bathroom,” Stier said. “We will make an inventory of items that must be fixed.” In regard to numerous complaints and issues invoving Griffon Hall, Thompson refused to comment. Student AJ Mercer said that he personally feels maintenance problems aren't getting done at all. He often sees the maintenance workers but noted that he rarely sees them working. "Well, my room is 85 degrees right now," Mercer said. "The spigot on the bottom of my kitchen drain fell off, and I had to repair it myself after three days. No one came. It's been two months since one of my drawers busted and it hasn't been touched. The carpeting is coming up in half the room. The power flickers. It's a complete dump. [Maintenance] came by and fixed the island that fell over. That fell over with no reason; just fell over!"

Residential Life desires positive, professional RAs

Leadership, commitment and an open mind  are just a few of the qualities that Residential Life is looking for in those applying to become a residential assistant. Crystal Carlson, Scanlon residence hall director, said that if students are interested in becoming a resident assistant, applications are out now. She said that applications can be picked up in the commons building or at any of the residence hall front desks. “The last day to turn in applications for becoming an RA is March 8 at 5 p.m,” Carlson said. Becky Lovitt, Scanlon RA and RA selection committee member, said that becoming an RA is a great experience not only for leadership skills but for making new friends. She also said that those who are hired will receive great benefits. “Each RA has around 35 to 40 residents, and you build your own community,” Lovitt said. “Also you get free room and board, and $150 a month, which adds up to $600 a semester.” However the process of becoming an RA is time consuming. Carlson said that there is an application process and interviews that students must go through before they are chosen as a likely candidate for an RA position for next school year. “Students don’t have to be a current on-campus student, however we require that you have had on-campus living experience," Carlson said. “Students must also answer four essay questions, and have two letters of recommendation, preferably by a professional staff member, or current employer.” The RA selection committee consists of six resident assistants that were given an assignment along with their daily tasks within the halls, Lovitt said. She said that they work with professional staff and attend at least two of the night sessions for students to come and ask questions. “We go to information meetings mainly to answer questions that students might have," Lovitt said. “The committee will also do group interviews starting March 22 and 23 that will consist of activities to show the candidates' strengths and weaknesses.” Carlson said that she looks for someone who can interview well and have good responses to their short essay questions. “Some people are very nervous during the interview, but will shine in their essay questions,” Carlson said.“Or they will have great writing skills, and shine in the interview. But they should come to the interview and dress professional, not in blue jeans.” Jessica Cato, Scanlon RA, said the position requires time commitment along with a positive attitude because the position is 24/7. “I absolutely love my job, and have always wanted to do this," Cato said. “It’s hard work, and once you step into the building you must change your entire attitude, because it’s a lifestyle.” Carlson said that students will be notified via-email on April 2 if they were hired for the position. “They will have a few days after being accepted to get to the contract office," Carlson said. “At that time they can accept or deny the position.”  

Campus maintenance suffers from budget cuts

Budget cuts are affecting all aspects of Missouri Western, including the maintenance department. In the last several years, the maintenance staff has decreased by four custodial employees, a painting position and a mail clerk. [caption id="attachment_9446" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Trash can be found many places on campus, especially with cuts to campus maintenance. Photo by Jason Brown"][/caption] “Our staffing levels are bare bones right now,” Director of Facilities Lonnie Johnson said. Johnson said that the campus only has two custodians working for each of the academic buildings on campus. One electrician and one plumber are covering the whole campus. Auxiliary Maintenance Supervisor Steve Conway said he has not heard of anything changing in the future regarding the number of hours maintenance employees work or a decrease in the number of working employees. Johnson said that while the cost of materials continues to go up each year, the operating budget is not increasing fast enough to cover all the areas. Maintenance cannot keep from going over their budget in some areas. Conway said that he and several other employees cover all the dorms on campus, as well as the student union, commons and fitness center. There are 9 full-time workers and four student workers. They take care of anything that has to do with student involvement. Auxiliary maintenance has four maintenance techs that take care of maintenance requests such as heating, air and plumbing. Conway and and his team get a lot of door requests. Director of Residential Life Mark Stier said in case of an emergency he could call on the radio and maintenance would respond. Residential life consists of only the director, three hall directors and 40 resident assistants. Since residential life does not have its own maintenance personal, Stier relies on campus maintenance for assistance. The maintenance department is quite diverse and encompasses every section of campus. The staff is currently made up of seven different areas: mechanical maintenance, building trades, grounds, events/set-ups, custodial, auxiliary maintenance/custodial and mail room/shipping receiving. The custodial staff works Monday through Friday and also cleans up after college events such as sports and conferences.

Suites get new key systems

To provide better safety to the students and give the campus the most efficient technology, the key office and the facilities department partnered with residential life to install new key mechanisms for the residential halls. Instead of the old padlock keys that have been installed for several years, the departments decided to get brand new key sliders for every front door of the dorms.  According to Key Access Specialist and Assistant Locksmith Clint Barnes, the student’s safety was the number one reason for installing the new key system. “The largest part of my job is safety,” Barnes said. ““I hold that end very, very high. There is no other way around it. Students have to feel safe. Student safety is number one.” Residential Assistant Derek Thompson, who stated that he didn’t hear about the new key systems, felt that the lock upgrade might have been a little unnecessary. “I liked the old ones better,” Thompson said. “They were easier to use. I guess these ones are better for winter weather. We have locks that already worked and I don’t think we really needed them if they were expensive.” According to Barnes, thousands of dollars were spent to purchase and install the new locks. Last year, the Facilities Department drew up a bid to install the new systems. Barnes also thinks that Residential Life paid for the upgrade. “I’m pretty sure Residential life paid for it,” Barnes said. Barnes noted that anytime a department requests for new locks or mechanisms, the department is entitled to pay for it. “It doesn’t come out of maintenance budget because we don’t have it.” Griffon Hall Resident Jerrica Brown also felt the new lock upgrade were a meaningless addition to the campus. “It doesn’t seem like there is a difference,” Brown said. “I think they are really pointless. I think they are wasting money on pointless things that don’t benefit students.” In edition to the new lock system, the key office has found more efficient ways to insure campus security.  The security is due mainly to students that need or desire access into academic buildings. To achieve access, a form must be signed by the department chair, vice president of the department and dean or director of that department. This form must be filled out every semester. “Just because you want access into room x,y,z doesn’t mean you are going to get it,” Barnes said. Barnes also gives a stern warning to students that have access to any academic building about the importance of being responsible of your electronic chip key and not losing it or loaning it out. “If you loan your chip to somebody, we are going to know about it,” Barnes said. “I can run and audit and tell you exactly who came into that door.”