Compiled by Carson Cook, Chattanooga, Tenn. —
SGA discussed outsourcing campus workers, the counseling center’s limitations and racial inclusion at its meeting Oct. 11.
The meeting began with guest speaker Melanie Barron, a representative from the United Campus Workers, an independent organization for employees at higher education institutions across the state.
Barron discussed Governor Bill Haslam’s proposal to outsource facilities management on Tennessee campuses to a private company. This plan would affect custodial, maintenance and groundskeeping roles.
Although Haslam has said the state will only consider contracts that guarantee employees will not lose their jobs or see a decrease in wages, Barron said that in previous similar cases, many employees were not hired back, saw a decrease in benefits or left because they were unhappy with the new management.
Barron urged SGA to pass a resolution against the outsourcing plan, which still has to be approved at the state level, by Chancellor Steven Angle and also by the Board of Trustees. Barron said that to people who see universities as businesses, students are customers and the customers’ opinion matters.
SGA previously discussed outsourcing when Angle was the guest speaker. The Echo has covered the outsourcing debate before. You can read more here.
Next, Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien spoke on behalf of the counseling center, specifically concerning the new policy that limits students to six sessions a semester.
Looking at previous years, for about 80 percent of students, six sessions are enough, but the rest need more time. O’Brien said most students come two to three times, after which either the issue is resolved or the student needs to be referred to a higher level of service.
O’Brien said that the limit was put in place because a student who needed more care was making weekly and twice-weekly sessions that filled up the center’s time. This made it difficult for the center to accept walk-in appointments.
O’Brien also said that the center is understaffed and does not meet the ratio of students to counselors accredited counseling centers require.
Several senators thought that the six session limit would discourage students from seeking help.
O’Brien said that the center may need to reevaluate how they explain this policy. Emergency situations do not count against a student’s limit, and a student can make more the six appointments a semester based on counselor recommendation.
This policy will be reevaluated at the end of the semester based on the data and feedback the center collects. The center is also looking at ways to restructure itself in relation to other student health services.
During general discussion, Senator Ronald Elliott stood in front of the senate to talk about a diversity, particularly racial tolerance, on campus.
Elliott talked about how Black students had a separate step show this year, calling Homecoming’s headlining event “cultural appropriation,” where mainly White fraternities and sororities use Black culture without understanding it.
“Not everybody understands their privilege to feel comfortable on this campus,” said Elliott.
Elliott opened up to his fellow senators describing how he has felt uncomfortable on campus since he arrived.
“We keep talking, and we keep talking,” said Elliott. “We know the issues at this point. When are we going to start listening? When are we going to start listening and doing something?”
“I challenge people to stop talking and start taking action, because it is exhausting to be a Black person on this campus.”
Elliott’s speech prompted discussion about race and privilege among senators.
President Kelsey Weaver told the members of SGA involved in Greek life to take this message back to their organizations. Weaver promised to continue the conversation during her report next meeting and to create action items.