Over 15 students spoke about issues like parking and course fees at a student concerns forum organized by student government on Nov. 4 in the Commuter Lounge in the Woodbury Campus Center on the Portland campus.
The student senate’s student affairs committee, chaired by junior Anna Ivanova, collected a written questionnaire from attendees which asked their feelings about Blackboard, as well as the restructuring of USM’s colleges.
About 20 students attended the meeting, which offered a full lunch spread. Though some in attendance were student senators, others had not previously been involved in student government.
Ivanova said that the meeting was successful in getting fresh perspectives. “I’ve met a lot of people today I might not have,” she said.
Students raised a variety of concerns, from transportation and parking woes to student retention to outdated, “middle school” desks.
Senior Eric Colgan raised the issue of the high price of textbooks and online courses. Between fees for classes — there is a fee of $25 per credit hour for online courses in addition to tuition — and textbooks that sometimes are barely used by professors, he said he sometimes feels cheated. “It feels like, as a student, I’m being taken advantage of,” he said.
Many of the students in attendance weighed in on the issue of parking, noting the congestion going in and out of the Portland parking garage. John Burgess, a student senator and organizer of the forum, said the university could cut down on parking congestion by promoting alternative ways of getting to school. “We need incentives to walk, to ride bikes, to take the bus to USM,” he said.
Jennifer Hayward, a junior and director of student affairs for Portland –a position in the cabinet of the student body president — agreed with Burgess. She said part of the problem is the mandatory transportation fee which ranges from $50 to $100 depending on students’ credit hours. All students pay, whether they park on campus or not. “The transportation fees don’t make students want to walk or ride to school,” she said.
Also weighing in was Melinda Torrens of Commuter Connections. She outlined the mission of Commuter Connections, which is a division of the office for student success that helps connect commuter students with the services and community the campus has to offer. “Commuters can be more detached from campus,” said Torrens.
Sophomore Krysta Mckinnon, who joined others in talking about crowding on the bus to and from Gorham, said she was glad to have attended the meeting.
Also in attendance was student Sarah Victor, who stressed the importance of being involved with USM as a student. “Being engaged in the community is very, very important,” she said. “To create positive change, you have to be involved.”
Ivanova said she thought the event, which was in the works for about a month, went well.
Hayward praised the attendees for their participation in the meeting, saying that it was encouraging to see student involvement in university affairs. “You guys came here, and that’s awesome,” said Hayward. “If you want things to be better, you really have to work for it. Stick with it.”