Students are often thinking up ways to make Saint Leo that much better, but their opinions often go unheard. Student Government Union (SGU) hosted a Town Hall Meeting on Mar. 21 with President Dr. Lennox speaking, as well as answering and interacting, with students from University Campus.
The event, which was held in the SCC boardrooms, consisted of Dr. Lennox discussing the initiatives Saint Leo has done and what they are planning to accomplish. Following his talk, students were given a chance to address any concerns or ask any questions they may have had.
During the presentation, Dr. Lennox covered a wide range of topics. In fact, Dr. Lennox talked heavily about the advertisement and the publicity that the school has done to attract more students to Saint Leo. Some of the forms of advertisements included Dr. Lennox’s guest appearance on the Lifetime miniseries “Military Makeover” and a special gathering of the alumni student chapter at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York. 60 alumni gathered at the event, and Dr. Lennox made mention that this student chapter is only one, another being the Tampa student chapter.
In addition to him talking about what the university has done to get Saint Leo’s name out there, Dr. Lennox emphasized that students can publicize the school as well. This was when he talked about the importance of students recruiting from their respective high school by inviting students and others to come to Saint Leo. He also mentioned Saint Leo is gathering interest in getting more students from the North East, New York in particular, as well as Atlanta.
He also mentioned getting centers involved and more integrated with University Campus. In fact, Dr. Lennox talked about doing this through athletics, as an example. He mentioned a time this semester when the Saint Leo men’s basketball team had a game in Atlanta, and the faculty, staff, and students from the centers from Atlanta all gathered at the game to support the basketball team. Together, according to Dr. Lennox, these folks out numbered the fans from Clayton State University.
Dr. Lennox also spoke a bit about the Vision for West campus. He explained his plans for a new infrastructure and its primary uses. Dr. Lennox suggested that it can contain a freshman experience, which would essentially be where they would live, have classes, and even have dining services. He also proposed that West Campus can house an entire discipline, such as a nursing school. He concluded by showing students blueprints of the residence halls with dining facilities in them, the administration building, parking garage, theater, and wellness center.
Following his informative presentation, Dr. Lennox opened the floor to students. One issue that Dr. Lennox talked about in his presentation that was immediately addressed was the issue of retention of students. The major issue with retention is the lack of transportation, which students felt is directly linked to limited students’ involvement and even makes many feel unwelcome. One student, on behalf of their sorority, said that they would like to have the formal Greek recruitment switched to fall, believing that a fall recruitment rather than a spring one can help with retention. Another mentioned that transportation to places in Dade City and other surrounding areas would help students feel less secluded from society.
One of the first students to talk about this critical issue was Katriel Hope-Grant, a junior majoring in sociology. She believes that incentives and orientation to all incoming students help to “set the tone for people’s expectations of Saint Leo and kind of helps build comradery among the student body.”
Dr. Lennox responded that they are working on this issue of retention by getting students involved and that he agreed that it starts with the student’s first experience.
“The retention is a critical issue for us; we’re watching it all the time. The Saint Leo 101 is being worked on right now. The new experience is being formed right now. New guy in charge, so Matt is putting that together right now,” said Dr. Lennox. “I agree with you that’s where we get students and get them so they are involved in activities, and they’re doing things because, once they get into that experience, we win. So, I agree with you a hundred percent. We’re doing fairly well in the retention for student’s moving from freshman to sophomore year. We’re around the 75%, I think, we are looking right now. I’d like it even higher, and one of the things you mentioned right there is getting student involvement is critical for me.”
However, a bigger problem that students addressed is financial situations, with students stating there being no clarity with financial assistance, such as the payment plan and payment agreement, and some students complaining about a limited number of jobs on campus and scholarships available. Dr. Lennox responded stating the administration may have to work on being “square” or transparent with students regarding financial situation so that students know upfront the opportunities.
Also, there were numerous complaints about these financial issues from international students, in particular, to the point that Dr. Lennox mentioned there the administration would talk a look at these concerns brought up by the international students.
“It sounds like we need to take a look at the international students,” said Dr. Lennox. “I’ve got to go to alumni to do contributions for some scholarships, and that includes the islands, from other places to help everybody.”
Dr. Lennox mentioned the school budget as being a balloon; if the school gives more scholarships, “something else has to give.” And Dr. Lennox later responded to additional complaints about financial issues if students attending college should understand there are a tuition and housing to pay. Nevertheless, Dr. Lennox mentioned that administration has been and are still fighting to keep the tuition costs down.
Other students’ concerns included issues with the upcoming changes to the health clinic and insurance, in which Dr. Lennox assured that the hospital assured the school that the insurance from the school would remain and they will accept all the same insurance that is accepted currently. Another issue that arose was the lack of participation of students for change to happen. This came up because of someone mentioning a lack of transportation, taking into account the transportation survey, which a survey conducted weeks prior and even the year before that can set the way for transportation to be available for surrounding areas. The conversation about the survey sparked Melissa Bryant, who is Student Government Union VP of Operations and also senior majoring in Criminal Justice, to make a point about students being able to take an initiative.
“We really need enough students to take the survey because that’s the only way we can decide on whether it’s a need for university campus… I encourage you guys to please take the survey,” said Bryant. “In order for you guys to see a change in the University campus, you guys have to play a part, you guys have to show the initiative, and that’s what is lacking in the Saint Leo University community; you guys have to come to together as one; you guys need to do what you need to do; it’s not going to be only on
Dr. Lennox; it’s not only going to be on Student Government Union; it’s about you guys; You guys are Saint Leo University; it’s not just us, and in order for us to do what we need to do, you have to put in work too.”
At some points in the event, things became heated. Some shouting among students erupted, accusations about faculty spreading rumors were made, and a lawsuit against the school was even threatened! Nevertheless, the event went as planned according to Edson O’Neale, who also explained why SGU decided to host the event.
“SGU coordinated the Town Hall Meeting because they felt it was important that the President speaks with students about the status of the university, and to give the students an opportunity to ask question to the university president to voice potential concerns or maybe get updates of the direction the university is going towards,” said O’Neale. “I think it went well. It was expected that some students would have voiced some concerns, but I personally feel for the most part it was successful and Dr. Lennox enjoyed meeting the students.”
Several important issues were addressed, and many students finally got the chance to speak their minds. Over time, students can expect to see many beneficial changes being made to the Saint Leo campus.