Student open forum gives Buffalo State students a voice


Katherine Conway-Turner and her staff meet with students to voice their concerns.

I’Jaz Eberhardt, Staff writer

On Tuesday, March 20, SUNY Buffalo State President Catherine Conway-Turner and her entire senior staff held an open forum for students to ask questions and express concerns with campus life.

The six-member panel included: Provost Melanie Perreault, Vice President for Finance and Management Michael LeVine, Vice President for Student Affairs Timothy Gordon, Interim CIO and Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing and Communications James Mayrose, Chief Diversity Officer Karen Clinton-Jones, and Vice President for Institutional Advancement William Benfanti.

While the forum was not the first of its kind, event organizers and The Record implemented a new livestreaming feature to allow for viewing in other areas on and off campus. Also, students who could not attend were invited to send in questions via the web, which Conway-Turner read and answered along with her cabinet members.

Security concerns

Campus safety was one of the greatest concerns among students. Two students sent in questions relating to the topic, one inquiring about safety measures being taken by the University Police Department (UPD) to decrease crime rates, and another who expressed specific concern for the safety of female students in regards to recent reports of sexual assaults on campus.

UPD Chief Peter Carey acknowledged what he called a “comprehensive program” which involves police patrols, student aids and escort vans.

Recommendations included utilization of the campus’ escort service, self-defense and safety strategy programs provide by the UPD and adhering to the “see something, say something” system.

Still, the need for protection and monitoring remains an issue. LeVine explained that implementing more security cameras and lighting for increased visibility and crime deterrence in coming years is of high priority.

“Cameras are both a preventative measure and a guide to help in investigations,” he said.

One student expressed concerns for commuters. Suggestions included implementing more lighting in areas like Forest Avenue and extending the escort service routes beyond campus perimeters.

Increased faculty involvement with student life

Another subject that dominated the forum was enhancing engagement between faculty and students. Several questions addressed getting faculty more involved with student interests, improving the line of communication and a need for involvement with personal issues faced by students. Displacement of students in Monarch 716 apartments and loss of financial aid were two prominent issues that were raised. Conway-Turner encouraged students to voice their suggestions.

“Please send good ideas our way so that we can find ways to broadly encourage that kind of interaction,” she said

According to panel members, Buffalo State faculty are already looking for ways to increase engagement.

“This is something that the president and I have been talking about recently, and it is a huge part of the college experience.” said Perreault.

She also suggested students reach out to faculty members to encourage involvement, a sentiment shared by Gordon.

“If you want to make those invitations and don’t quite know how to do that, the dean of students and others…can help you craft those,” he said, calling student-faculty engagement a “partnership.”

The solution to the perceived divide between Buffalo State faculty and students appears to demand effort from both sides. Conway-Turner continued to stress the importance of students being involved, even with affairs such as the forum

Other concerns

Students’ questions also addressed parking, healthy food options, part-time jobs for students on campus, orientation fees and diversity in campus programs. The latter topic was addressed in part by Quazel Trower, a junior who expressed an interest in developing an organization to unite student musicians and to improve recording facilities for students to utilize.

The Aftermath

Trower was one of the students who found the open forum to have a positive impact.

“I think this process was actually beneficial to me because they pointed me to the right direction,” he said after the forum concluded.

During this time, Conway-Turner and the senior staff stayed in the Social Hall to engage students in one-on-one conversations. The president expressed contentment with the overall direction of the forum, despite a low turnout among students.

“I think it was a success. I just wanted to see the room packed,” Conway-Turner said.

One solution proposed by a student after the forum is for Buffalo State faculty members to attend general interest meetings held by various student clubs and organizations.

“How do we get students to see that this is important and that we really want to hear your voice and hear your opinions?” she asked. “Maybe the way we communicate in the future, through clubs, will help with the numbers.”

This year, there were certain topics that brought enlightenment and helped foster discussions during the forum. Even with differences in views among students and faculty members, one agreeable conclusion is that an open and honest platform must continue to exist that will allow for civil and informative conversation.

“I want to continue to have this forum as one of the means” said Conway-Turner, “not the only means, but one of the means, and we’ll just continue to work on how to get more people out.”


The Open Student Forum is available for reviewing here.