By Zainab Iqbal
Published: September 27th, 2017
Infrastructure, transparency, and the lack of a campus bookstore were hot topics at the Brooklyn College Strategic Plan Draft Goals Town Hall last Thursday, Sept. 14.
Strategic plans are typically created every five years, as they incorporate both short-term and long-term goals to be achieved during the half-century. In this case, a new plan should have been created last year. But circumstances had changed, as there was a new president.
BC President Michelle Anderson, currently in the second year of her term, took the first year of her term to go on listening tours across campus where she invited students, faculty, and staff to voice their concerns. Using information gathered from the listening tours, Dr. Tammy Lewis, the coordinator of the strategic planning committee, created a rough draft of goals. The next step was to gather feedback on the draft.
“The idea behind a strategic plan is that you assess where you are and think about where you want to be,” Lewis said. “Because an institution like Brooklyn College has a lot of diverse stakeholders, it’s kind of challenging to do a plan. What we’re trying to do is create a set of goals everyone can envision. We’re creating a better future for the institution.”
Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Gold Room of the Student Center to voice their opinions on the goals written in the draft. One at a time, each of the five goals was shown on the screen. As each goal was presented, everyone had the opportunity to walk up to the microphone to state their opinion and solicit feedback.
At the beginning of the town hall, Lewis reminded everyone to keep in mind the big picture of Brooklyn College. “How does that specific issue relate to the college as a whole?” she asked.
A few students then began to chime in.
“Often times I feel like my opinion differs from what the professor says, and when the professor says you can’t talk about that, his only reason is because he’s the professor,” said a transfer and film student Ultiminio Vega, who encouraged diverse viewpoints. “I should be allowed to voice my opinion even if it differs, which sometimes isn’t very westernized. So sometimes I feel like I’m being indoctrinated into a very narrow way of thinking.”
Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, the chairperson at the Conservatory of Music, expressed the idea of a platform for student activism. She believes that in order to achieve any of the goals listed in the draft, there need to be resources put behind them—resources that can be obtained if students and faculty have a way of organizing.
“Words like ‘enhance,’ ‘increase,’ and ‘attract’ all involve money, and when we have an $8 million shortfall, those goals are going to be difficult to achieve,” Jensen-Moulton said. “And our students and faculty need a platform for activism that’s collective and organized when we’re trying to do these achievements of strategic planning.”
President Anderson did not attend the town hall. The College of Liberal Arts and Science (CLAS) Student Government President, Nissim Said, expressed his concerns on Facebook, saying that he was “awfully embarrassed by the fact that faculty council chairs, department heads, and President Anderson did not attend this meeting.”
Said spoke on behalf of the many students who were not able to attend the town hall. He went up to give multiple feedbacks on each of the five goals presented.
“We should be using open-source textbooks,” Said said, “so students don’t have to pay $300 to $400 additionally on top of their credits to make it through college.”
Said also recommended comprehensive financial aid information for both full-time and transfer students, as he believes the system put into play right now is not exactly efficient.
“There has to be more collaboration between the financial aid office and what kind of information they’re telling students,” he said. “And being on the same page, so students aren’t misguided and told to go to three different departments only to come back to where they started.”
According to Said, there needs to be more honest communication between the college and students. For example, if there is a specific field that is not going to guarantee a job in the future, students should know beforehand.
“Especially for the most of them on financial aid,” Said said. “They are only going to get one shot at going to a university.”
Representing the nighttime and weekend students was School of General Studies (SGS) President Menachem Eidelman. He urged more classes and advisement times to be included during the evening, as it is very difficult for students to attend meetings during the daytime. According to Eidelman, SGS conducted a survey a few weeks ago. One of the questions included whether or not the student has to take off work to attend academic advisement meetings, faculty meetings, or the Magner Career Center. The results showed that over half of the students said yes.
“This is a major issue for students who are working part-time or trying to support their families and have to take off work to meet with professor or academic advisement,” he said. “And this also comes to course scheduling, which is another issue. Some offers aren’t offered at night and graduation might be delayed.”
Throughout the hour, an issue constantly being brought up was poor infrastructure. Mark Koegel, the editor-in-chief of the nighttime newspaper, Night Call, even brought a copy of a 1990 issue in where there was an article about broken bathrooms in Boylan.
“It should be pointed out that some of these bathrooms have the same broken toilets. They are a part of history now; it’s cool but it’s a bit of the problem,” Koegel said. “It’s small things like these that really affect a college’s reputation. Our fence was knocked over by a car, its nearly five months later and has not been fixed. That doesn’t reflect very well for a college that wants to have a strong reputation or well-maintained facilities. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in.”
Brooklyn College’s poor infrastructure and failure to keep up with technology led Zain Qureshi, a member of CLAS, to say it feels like going back “to the 1800s.”
“Even to wash my hands, I’m scared I’m going to get more germs just by twisting [the handle],” Qureshi said. “My high school had motion sensors; I feel like I just got downgraded while going to college even though I’m paying for this.”
The situation surrounding the BC bookstore was also discussed.
Last semester, the college announced the closing of the beloved campus bookstore in Boylan Hall; it was to be replaced by an online store, Akademos. This was done to make it more efficient for students, but students feel otherwise. In fact, Eytan Galanter, a junior, even said it was “tragically awful, it’s ridiculous.”
“It’s not just about the textbooks. It’s about even the little things that they sell at the front counter,” Rahul Roshin, a member of CLAS, said. “Like a student having headaches and quickly needing some sort of medication like an Advil. Just being able to go downstairs really quick. Or a calculator for a class; its very resourceful and convenient.”
Students were also concerned about technology resources on campus. One student even made a suggestion about having a class of some sort to teach professors how to work technology.
“It’s so tragic when the professor has to ask every student how to open a certain app,” Galanter said. “I feel bad for them, not for us. It sucks to have them standing and poke a board.”
But perhaps one of the well-received suggestions came from a Marketing student, Alex, who suggested a class to teach everyone about the mitochondria—the energy organelle of a cell.
“The way you do that is by proper nutrition and practical psychology,” he said. “So if you have one class like that in the beginning of a student’s term, and they understand all these concepts, they can maximize their energy, they can perform better in class, and they’re going to have higher grades, lower rates of depression and the school is going to function better.”
Does it work though?
“When I was at NYU, I saw everybody running around, exercising, “he said, “they’re all eating kale salads…and had higher grades.”
The next step to proceed with the strategic plan is coming up with how everyone plans to implement these goals—coming up with strategic actions. But before that, Lewis still wants to make sure everyone on campus gets their voices heard. She plans on revising the strategic goals draft a few times.
“I think this is a chance to make this place better,” she said. “People love Brooklyn College but are really frustrated by it, so here’s the opportunity.”
She encourages everyone to tell her their opinions and feedback. Students, faculty, and staff can submit their comments on the Strategic Plan Comment Form on the BC website, or email Lewis herself at firstname.lastname@example.org. The draft goals can be found on the BC website as well.