Town hall meeting lets nontrad students voice issues

(Photo by Rosie Gerrish) Students sit and study in the Non-Traditional Student Center. The center serves a wide array of non traditional students who make up a majority of the student population at WSU.
(Photo by Rosie Gerrish) Students study in the Nontraditional Student Center. The center serves an array of nontraditional students, who make up the majority of the student population at Weber State University.

Weber State University nontraditional student senator Sandi Weber knows that every student’s voice is different, and she’s working to make sure her constituents’ voices are heard. Her solution is the Nontraditional Student Town Hall meetings, held in the Nontraditional Student Center, where many students already feel at home.

A student is considered nontraditional if he or she is over the age of 25, married or has ever been married, or has children. Weber represents any students who falls under this category in the WSU student senate, which meets weekly to discuss the needs of students and help implement improvements.

Weber explained that every student senator has the responsibility to develop an area council (including a panel of eight or more students) to bring in student ideas. In the past, senators have utilized both in-person and social media-based panels. But Weber hoped to better serve her constituency by working with students in the ways they were already comfortable with.

“I felt like nontrad was different,” she said. “I tried to think, ‘What works for the nontrad population?’ It just struck me one day that the way that some of the conversations that take place (in the Nontraditional Student Center) . . . really come across as a town hall meeting. It really almost formed itself, just within the atmosphere of nontrad.”

The idea turned out to be an effective one; according to Weber, the first town hall meeting saw more turnout “than any previous area council in the last seven or so years.”

Many issues brought up in the first meeting have already started to be addressed. Student ideas such as enhancing snow removal, providing Wildcards for children and spouses of students, and crosswalk safety on campus have been brought to the student senate.

The second town hall meeting included discussion about the developmental math program becoming more accessible to nontraditional students. One student said the surveys the developmental math department sent out were tailored to younger students, asking questions about how many months it had been since students had graduated high school.

“(They) didn’t take us into account,” said Stephanie Saffell-Wilkinson, a health promotions major. “It’s just disrespectful . . . given that we’re the majority of people on campus.”

Weber urged students to not be afraid to reach out to those who represent them.

“We’re doing our best to listen, and to find, and to watch the chatter on campus and see what we can pick up,” she said. “But we need help from the student body as well. Come to us. We honestly care.”

Brady Harris, student senate president, worked with Weber to offer up solutions for the individual problems presented, and he took notes and asked questions at the meeting about what problems affect all nontraditional students.

“It was helpful to be able to listen to everyone give their input, and to find out from our student senator what’s being worked on, and how far they’ve come,” said Diane Kankol, health administration major. “All the student senate . . . (should be) having a town hall gathering with their population that they’re responsible to. That would get more participation from students, I’ll tell you.”

Harris said the student senate works to improve the education process for everyone at WSU. “This is my sixth year doing this . . . and I love it.” He said the senate loves hearing about “anything we can do to help make things better.”

The next town hall meeting is scheduled for Nov. 20 at 11:30 a.m. in the Nontraditional Student Center. Any questions can be sent to [email protected].

“We have the ability to make some of these simple changes,” Weber said. “Simple goes a long way.”