Editor In Chief
Back in mid-October, Springfield College students were notified of a student suggestion initiative that President Mary-Beth Cooper launched with the help of the Student Government Association. After gathering the 200-plus student suggestions and filtering through them, Cooper and the SGA have already begun taking action.
“I was anxious to get back to students in the same medium that we started with in terms of the video that said, ‘We heard you,’” Cooper explained.
The result was a video of Cooper and SGA President Becca Jacobson talking about the changes that have already been made as a result of students’ suggestions and what students can expect to see in the future. Students received the video via email on November 27. Cooper also took into account what the faculty and staff had to say from a survey that they were asked to complete online.
“Clearly the No. 1 item that was addressed not only in the student piece but also in the faculty/staff…was the issue of safety,” Cooper said. “I didn’t want students to wonder whether or not we heard them, so immediately we put in place the increased candle power [and] the ‘No Turn on Red’ [signs].”
Cooper stressed that the process of improving safety on the campus is far from over. Students can expect increased candle power in all of the blue lights around campus in addition to the already-increased candle power all along Alden Street. In addition, the blue light on the side of Babson Library will be relocated to the front of the building.
The “No Turn on Red” signs at the intersection of Wilbraham Road and Alden Street are a start to improving the safety of crosswalks on campus, but Cooper is looking into the issue further. Especially of interest is the crosswalk directly outside of the library, where the traffic light often confuses drivers and causes situations that can put students at risk.
Since safety was the consensus and No. 1 concern, it has been the priority this semester. However, there are a number of other topics that garnered a lot of attention. The most frequent responses other than safety revolved around increasing financial aid and/or decreasing tuition, improving housing opportunities, improving customer service in key offices, later hours for the library and Cheney Dining Hall, and more parking.
For Cooper, beginning the process of responding to these suggestions this semester was crucial because she wanted to reassure students that their voices have been heard, and change is coming.
“If you don’t see the immediacy of somebody responding to your tuition dollars, you get frustrated,” Cooper said. “I wanted to reinforce that somebody looked at them.”
One thing that Cooper has shown early on in her time as president is a propensity to listen. This willingness to hear people’s opinions fosters discussion, and through discussion, progressive change can occur.
“It’s through these conversations that we start to problem solve,” Cooper said.
These conversations will not die down anytime soon. Cooper intends to continue to follow-up with students regarding the suggestion initiative next semester and hold a similar process at the beginning of every new academic school year. The medium in which Cooper asks students to share their opinions may vary in the future, but receiving feedback is something that Cooper “absolutely” will do again.
In her inauguration speech, Cooper talked about her belief in a shared governance model, which is all about a dynamic system where exchange and dialogue between groups is key. The first-year president has lived out that model herself by creating an open discussion among students, faculty and staff, and as a result, positive change has already occurred and will continue throughout next semester on the campus of Springfield College.