By Lorena Grajales, News Editor-
Student leaders of distinct backgrounds engaged in essential areas of discussion with Chancellor Steve Angle and other staff members, to further improve student experiences on campus.
On Wednesday, Oct. 19, student organizations such as UTC’s Black Student Alliance, Hispanic Outreach Leadership Association, Spectrum, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Cru, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and others joined in conversation to express their ideas for the future.
“..the more we can help you empower organizations and help you connect with students, the better off our students are gonna do, and that’s why we’re here,” said Angle.
Students brought up the change that was made in the system on how student organizations received event funding compared to previously.
In March of 2019, the UT Board of Trustees voted to remove access to directly offer funds for student organizations to sponsor programs, after the Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee organization at UTK hosted a controversial “sex week” program, that caused a state comptroller to conduct a full study on money disbursement.
Because of this, UTC’s student-run Campus Advisory Board was rid of and students were no longer permitted to vote on whether they wanted their service activity fee allocated to specific programs on campus or not.
In the beginning, the new policy stated that students were not allowed to recommend events to administration directly because it would be instantly disqualified. This change caused smaller groups such as HOLA, BSA, NPHC and others who did not have the means to raise money themselves, to be impacted the most.
Exceptions to this rule included student governing bodies such as SGA, GSA and student media across campus.
“…those were student organizations that they thought ‘we need to allow them to continue to keep their funds and be able to report on what’s happening,’” said Dr. Yancy Freeman, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.
Now, UTC conducts surveys at the end of each semester for students to give their opinions on what events they would like to see sponsored only by the university, which are then approved by Freeman.
Another concern was addressed by River Carroll, a junior from Nashville who said he plans on forming a Native American Student Alliance on campus.
He also shared his concerns over Native American inclusivity at UTC which included land acknowledgement in orientation groups, underwhelming graduation rates and proposed the possibility of providing financial incentives as a form of restitution, to attract Native American students to the university.
“You can start out with land acknowledgement cause it is a transformative act that works to undo the intentional erasure of indigenous people. It works to de-colonize the land relationship between how we have situated ourselves now on tribal land,” Carroll said. “Being that Chattanooga resides on tribal land, that is one way that this university can sort of reconcile our past here.”
Victoria Turner, a senior from Springfield, Tennessee commented on her experience with the university’s counseling center and what changes she suggests that would enhance the experience of other students.
“It’s been very much lifesaving…I would love to see them [counseling center] have the resources that they need to accommodate everyone, so that you know, people aren’t forced to only be able to see their counselor once a month. Cause at one point that was the case. More counselors and more diversity within that office would be very beneficial.”
Other topics discussed were the need for more mentorship programs, expanding the Honors College’s programs, strengthening relationships between incoming and current students and the desire for professors to be more understanding of difficult times students are going through because of the pandemic.
“There is a lot of work, there is a lot of schoolwork the professors give to the students, so they don’t have time to be with organizations, especially for freshmen,” said Hassan Almahdi, a senior international student from Saudi Arabia. “I recommend for the next semester if Covid is still here, [for] professors [to] give less load for students so they can enjoy and have a good experience when they are in this university,” he said.
To view the UT Board of Trustee’s updated policy, click here.