On Wednesday, February 22, St. Cloud State held an event called, Donuts & Dialogue in Atwood Memorial Center. The event was open to the student body and interim President Ashish Vaidya held an open Q&A where students could ask any questions they had or raise any issue about SCSU while being treated to some delicious donuts.
President Vaidya started off by asking the crowd a question.
“Why did you all choose St. Cloud? How is it meeting expectations?”
The answers ranged anywhere from affordable prices, being close to home, having the program the student desired, among other things.
One student mentioned they were unhappy with the lack of communication in the honors program. President Vaidya was not happy to hear this. “We want everything here to be easy,” he remarked. “Except for the classes,” he said to a room full of laughter.
The students then kicked it off by asking some questions. One student asked what the administration is doing to ensure the climate for marginalized groups on campus – and specifically referenced the infamous St. Cloud ‘Superman’.
Vaidya responded that it starts from the top, everyone has to be aware of the climate and how his faculty can best improve the quality of it for everyone. Another student talked about his experience with the computer science program, and how he wasn’t exactly pleased with it. Vaidya answered this by saying he needs to discuss these issues more with faculty, and develop a plan to change it.
Things took a different, and more serious turn when the questions became more personal. A student began their emotional statement by talking about how they were assaulted, and they felt as if the ball was dropped on their case. They had to go find the resources to help them on their own, and they felt like they should have received the info about these resources rather than finding them themselves. President Vaidya commended her courage, and put emphasis on the various services and centers we have here on campus.
Another student, Travis Kelley, talked about how he was assaulted multiple times, and how it has been detrimental to him to not only have a disability, but to also be attacked multiple times, and now have to worry about being safe on campus in addition to his other problems.
“If I’m spending $15,000 a year, that money should be going towards keeping our students safe,” Kelley said. “This is the first time I’ve seen anybody at a staff position that high reach out to students,” he said.
That’s not to say he thinks that’s enough. “There needs to be a lot more staff, so they can understand how real our problems are.”
Kelley is in his sixth year here at St. Cloud State, and believes things can improve much more. He also wants to actually hear about a plan, rather than hearing that there is just a plan. “I’ve been hearing for the last three years that there’s a ‘plan’, but I haven’t actually seen much change,” Kelley stated. “It gets repetitive.”
President Vaidya met with some students after the meeting to get more information on their specific cases and see how he can further help them out.