“The administration doesn’t even know where it’s going at this point, because it’s just this sum of money. They can’t even start to think about where to put the money because it hasn’t been approved. If it’s approved, then they can start to think about where to put the money.” SGA President Ida Haefner said this in relation to the $200,000 that Missouri Western would save annually under her proposed Student Success Act proposal that takes over some of the costs associated with Student and Academic Affairs departments. Under the SSA proposal, the university’s savings would come from the student fee covering the student labor and operating costs associated with nine student-related departments to save the university $195,560. An additional $4,440 of SSA fee money would go directly to the university to save it an even $200,000. Vice President of Financial Planning Dr. Cale Fessler, who reviewed the budget after it was drafted, said that the $200,000 that gets freed up would go back into the university’s general operating budget. “These funds are provided through the university’s general operating budget, so those funds would go back to the general operating budget for the university,” Fessler said. Aside from going to the university’s operational budget, the savings have not been marked for any certain projects or expenses. “We haven’t come up with any new $200,000 a year projects to take these funds at this point of time,” Fessler said. “That’s as much a function of our budget and revenue and expense side of things right now as anything else. Certainly the operating budget savings are very helpful to us, no question, but we don’t have any specific project lined out that those would go to or any ongoing expenditure that we would be taking on.” Fessler cited health insurance increase, utilities and raises for faculty and staff as possible outlets for the saved money, but because of the nature of the operational budget, could not provide any more specifics about where exactly the saved money was going. However this money is spent, the administration is confident that it will benefit students. “Really all the dollars that the university spends, whether it be operational or auxiliary or in the residence halls or things like that, I believe are in support of students,” Fessler said. “Sometimes, when you look at the general operating budget, it may not be as direct of an impact, or easily explained as a direct impact... There are so many ways that we allocate those funds that overall, because again we are here to serve the students and keeping the educational institution operational and being able to provide an education. I think really it provides us the opportunity to operate and it’s helpful to us.” Vice President Shana Meyer who oversees SGA where the legislation was proposed expressed similar sentiments. “Everything the university does benefits the students,” Meyer said. Haefner said that her proposal returns to the original intention of the student-imposed fee and in the end benefits the students as well. “The way that I view it when we go through it is this fee was put into place to save the student services. We’re saving the student services. It’s doing what it meant to be,” Haefner said. “It wasn’t meant to be this pot of money that went to certain places on campus, like to rebuild things. It was meant to help save the leadership and development services and all that sort of thing. Now, it going there, instead of to fix a building or renovate a building, which also needs to be done, but should you’re student fees be going toward that? This is more of a thing that encompasses all students because it’s something that all students can use.”
Western could soon see change in residential housing options. Western’s Pride Alliance and Residential Hall Association have been working hand-in-hand to propose the university designate a select number of gender neutral dorm rooms. Pride Alliance President Kate Chapman feels that creating gender neutral dorms will allow students to feel safer on campus. “My freshman year I met this person that first told me they identified as a man, but as I further got to know them they told me they prefer feminine pronouns and had, more overall, identified as a feminine person. It had gotten to the point where they were trying to come out more, but they did not feel safe within their own dorm room,” Chapman said. Chapman described the student's discomfort as not feeling safe to shower in their own dorm room because of conflict with their roommate. “A couple weeks later, they ended up dropping out. So, it's just one example of school push out when it comes to a minority such as the gender nonconforming, because of that and knowing more transgender people that have either faced discrimination or have been pushed out. It is clear that keeping them in their assigned-at-birth gender room is not proper,” Chapman said. Although no definite paperwork has been presented to university administration, Pride Alliance has gained support from SGA as well as the general student body. Jordan Booth, president of the Residence Hall Association feels the change is necessary to make Western a competitive option for incoming students. “We met with a bunch of other universities and almost every universities in the midwest region has transgender housing, or they are pushing for it as well. We are one of the last schools to get on the bandwagon, so we have support from every other campus out there,” Booth said. “This is something state funding looks at as well, so this allows us to get funding for the university as well as make sure we are on par with every other campus out there.” While the deadline to set aside gender neutral dorms for the Fall of 2016 has passed, Director of Residential Life Nathan Roberts is happy to help individual students. “RHA reviews [the proposal] and at that point, it depends on the timeline of the housing cycle. I have worked at a variety of institutions that have had transgender housing. Typically, they are looking for a private room, to go through whatever situation they’re in, and whenever they are in their process and that they have the privacy to go through that without prying eyes. Which we can accommodate that pretty much with any of the halls. Roberts is hopeful that students will feel comfortable talking with residential life to help the university better accommodate the students' needs. “We usually can make accommodations, if folks want to make the requests; I’m not always sure what their requests are, or what their needs would be, but I’m happy to listen and see how we can best accommodate them,” Roberts said. If the petition is approved, Pride Alliance is in hopes of creating gender neutral dorm rooms by the Fall of 2017. “There will always be a stigma, but by giving [students] an area in which they can truly express themselves, you give them the opportunity to no longer have to hide away in the closet,” Chapman said.
Have you ever been thirsty, too broke to buy a water bottle or in a hurry? Thanks to efforts made on campus, Missouri Western students in this predicament will soon have a solution. There have been a few new additions to campus water fountains. Water bottle refilling stations have been added to some water fountains, and there are plans to install more. The goal of this plan is to save students money and save plastic water bottles. Ida Haefner, President of SGA, explained how the SGA initiated this project. “We had one of our Senators, Brianna Bland, go through and come up with this big contract with this company and ended up having this lady from California come out and look at our campus," Haefner said. "She loved our campus and gave us a great deal on water bottle refilling stations.” The project was not funded by SGA alone, however. “We purchased five as SGA and [Director of Physical Plant] Jerry Gentry purchased the other five," Haefner said. Brianna Bland, SGA Senator, explained the process that went into acquiring the water fountains for Missouri Western. “The water bottling stations just became an idea and from there we talked with a bunch of companies and went with a company in California," Bland said. "The sales representative from that company flew in to look at our campus and see what would be the best options for it." The new water fountains provide some great amenities for students, Bland said. “Each of these stations show approximately how many water bottles we are saving to prevent from polluting," Bland said. "It also helps students save from buying $4-5 water bottles at the school. They’re censored so you can just put your water bottle in and once it's full take it out. It’s not going to overflow. It has ion pieces in it to give it a better taste and it is much more purified." Bland said that the cost of the five fountains was $4,233, including installment, maintenance and warranty. Jerry Gentry, Director of the Physical Plant, explained how Missouri Western will get the most out of the new water fountains. “The new ones that we are putting in have a built-in filter," Gentry said. "They have a charcoal filter so it makes the water cleaner. What we’re doing is changing out the ones that didn’t have filters and didn’t have bottle filling stations in the buildings that have the highest amount of traffic, or where people will be working out a lot.” Gentry said Western plans to get the fountains in 10 different buildings. Refillable stations have been installed in the Looney Complex, Popplewell Hall, Hearnes Center, Blum Union and the Baker Fitness Center. There are plans to have them installed in Potter, Murphy, Remington, Spratt and the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex. The fountains have meters on each system that display how many bottles it has saved; with one bottle is equaling 20 ounces of water. Gentry said that three months from now the meters will be checked to see the total number of water bottles these systems have saved. “It's a convenience for students and it’s a green initiative," Gentry said.
Thanks to the support of Student Affairs, the Graduate School, Academic Affairs, the Saint Joseph Transit and many others, off-campus public transportation after day classes is now a reality. Starting Fall of 2015, all Missouri Western students had access to free bus transportation throughout the day. As of Feb. 1, the decision was made to keep one more bus on duty for the students taking night classes. Many students, especially international students living off campus, will find that this change will improve their daily lives. Shana Meyer, vice president for student affairs, said the continuation of this amenity depends on if students actually take advantage of it. “This year’s actually a pilot program that Student Government entered into with the St. Joseph Transit," Meyer said. "This year is free, so we don’t pay anything for the basic service that the transit is providing. We do need to meet a baseline number this year." Meyer believes the program is a win-win situation for both the students and St.Joseph Transit. “We have always looked at transit options for students," Meyer said. "The transit system came to us essentially with an offer we couldn’t refuse. It is no risk to us. If we don’t have the number of riders that have to be met, we don’t have to continue on with the program." Ida Haefner, president of the Student Government Association, believes the program will succeed. “This is a trial run for this semester," Haefner said. "It also depends on if we meet the maximum ridership level of 9,500 riders. If not, then we are not locked into a contract to continue the bus route service. I think we will meet this; we were at 7,000 riders at the end of last semester." Previously the lack of evening transportation was a safety hazard for many students trying to get home. “Classes do not let out until 9:15 p.m.," Meyer said. "It’s dark and there is no sidewalk. Students would walk in clusters on the shoulders of the road trying to get home. It is a safety issue." “This provides an opportunity for students who don’t have a vehicle to get around the town of St. Joe. I’m glad we are able to provide this service to students,” Meyer said. The evening bus will pick students up at Popplewell Hall and take them to Chatham Apartments; that extra little bit will provide an additional ride per night, Monday through Thursday. The cost would be $3,000 per semester. Though it was originally intended for the international students that live in nearby apartments, it is for all faculty, staff and students. All students already pay a fee from which this program would be funded. It provides an option to everyone; a van or other transportation would not. A van also creates liability issues and driver issues for the university. There are 36 new international students this semester, and that number is expected to rise. Free transportation will make Missouri Western more appealing to those who are not able to live on campus. International students Kia Abhari and Violetta Valeeva are very grateful for this new opportunity. They both live in apartments and are taking night classes here at Missouri Western. They would either have to get a ride from other classmates or walk. “During the summer, we were walking here every day. We have only two choices: live on campus or live off campus,” Abhari said. “We took it once. It was really good.” Another advantage is that there will be no additional cost to any student. Even next year, when there is a fee for the service, it will be covered by SGA.
Missouri Western is not a Division I school. It does not have Division I enrollment. It does not have Division I facilities. It does not have Division I talent. It never has, it never will. That being said, Missouri Western athletics represents the University and every student and faculty member that has ever occupied it, just like every other University. In reality, there is no difference between athletic departments besides the different levels of competitiveness and funding. They all serve the same purpose. So, why does the amount of support the programs receive differ so dramatically? Is it because of a lack of awareness? Or do people just simply not care? Whatever the reason may be, I think the lack of support from students is something that needs to be emphasized here at Missouri Western. In my opinion, one of the best parts about college is being able to wear around that Missouri Western hoodie because you can call it yours; because the name across the front is a symbol of one of the biggest journeys you go on in life. I don’t show up to Missouri Western athletic events just because I like sports. I also show up because I want to support my school, the place that I call mine. I think all of us can find a way to show some pride, because the athletes that dedicate their time and effort to the name across the front of their jerseys are all damn proud they are putting in that work as a Griffon. Here at Missouri Western, it is as simple as swiping your student ID to get into an athletic event. In the time at the game, you can also use your Max Experience and get a free drink and snack. (All of which is a part of your tuition, so if you do not go, it is being wasted). To receive a first row spot in the student section and a Division-1 school, students sometimes sleep outside of the arena the day before and miss class to reserve a spot. At Missouri Western, you can show up at nearly any point in a game and find a seat as close as your heart desires. Besides the Northwest game each season, there are very few packed crowds. This can change. Imagine if Western treated game nights like bigger schools did. Imagine if, instead of just sitting in the residence halls, students filled Looney each home game. The atmosphere would completely change, and the involvement for every member of the crowd would change. Now, I’m not saying every person needs to care about sports. No one has to care about sports. Just try to care a bit more about your university. So, if you’re a student, come to Looney when Western is playing at home. Stand in the student section and give it a chance. Don’t be afraid to be loud, because the people already in that student section want nothing more than to be louder than they were before. When the time comes for Missouri Western to be in the spotlight, be able to say you provided support from the beginning. Missouri Western is a community, and it should be looked at that way. Be a bigger part of the Griffon community and make it out to some games; or, at the least, take an extra couple minutes and check the score on Twitter. Go Griffs!