Story by Eric Goodwin / Contributing Writer
The MTSU Student Government Association held its weekly Senate meeting Thursday evening in the Student Union Parliamentary Room, discussing resolutions regarding the MTSU board of trustees, a multi-cultural diversity center and lower parking violation fees.
Debra Sells, Vice President for Student Affairs, held a Q&A session addressing topics of concern among the senators and council members.
Dominating the conversation was the new board of trustees. Governor Bill Haslam announced the new board in October, following the passage of the Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act.
Haslam introduced the FOCUS Act in order to bolster the percentage of adults in Tennessee with a postsecondary education, one of the goals in his Drive to 55 initiative. One feature of the act establishes local governing boards for Tennessee’s six public universities.
At MTSU, the board of trustees will consist of ten members, nine of which will hold voting power. Eight of the members have been appointed by Governor Haslam, and MTSU’s Faculty Senate appointed School of Agribusiness and Agriscience professor Tony Johnston to be the faculty representative on the board.
The tenth member will be a student of MTSU and will hold no voting power.
During the meeting, Resolution 2-17-S was proposed, eliminating the ban on running for the student representative position while being a member of the SGA.
“If SGA passes this, I’m confident (the board) will support it,” said Danny Kelley, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs.
All eight of Haslam’s appointed trustees have held executive positions for major businesses. This business-oriented group, Sells said, has pros and cons.
“I think they will bring in a real business sense to the running of the institution,” she said.
Referring to a remark one trustee made about making cuts to the budget, Sells said, “That (remark) causes people like me to gasp, because over the course of the past twelve years, we have lost millions and millions and millions of dollars in state funding, and we are operating so close to the bone right now.”
Nonetheless, Sells remained optimistic about how the board will run the institution.
“I think they will be much more entrepreneurial if we’re able to develop programs that we think will be of great interest to business and industry in the state,” Sells said.
This entrepreneurialism may lead to future changes that visually impact the campus. One student asked if the new board of trustees would be more lenient on alcohol policies, to which Sells responded with uncertainty.
“I think that for the first time we will not be obstructed by the Tennessee Board of Regents alcohol policy,” she noted.
The current MTSU alcohol policy allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages only at designated events approved by the university president, but the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
Sells expressed the future possibility of selling alcohol at sporting events but approached the subject with skepticism.
“I don’t know. We might. I don’t know that we won’t, I don’t know that we will,” Sells said. “Money drives a lot of that.”
Other topics of interest included proposals for a multi-cultural diversity center and a resolution to lower fees for parking violations.
In regards to the diversity center, Sells acknowledged the support for such a place.
“It’s not just multi-cultural students that I’m hearing ‘We need more of a home base’,” Sells said. “I’m (also) hearing that from the June Anderson Center.”
“I think if we really spend some time talking through with all the student organizations that use that third-floor space … I think we might be able to come to an agreement about the way to rearrange that would serve everybody,” Sells said.
Shortly thereafter, SGA Resolution 3-17-S was proposed regarding a multi-cultural diversity center, stating that MTSU shall consult the student body for the guidelines of such a center, and then MTSU shall provide the center itself.
Resolution 5-17-S proposed a reduction in parking violation fees for parking in an unassigned spot and parking without a permit. The fees would be reduced from $34 to $25, and $25 to $20, respectively. The resolution garnered mixed support.
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