The Daily Gamecock

Column: Administration takes strides in the right direction, needs to continue open communication

<p>FILE—University of South Carolina Student Body President Reedy Newton talks with staff at the Imagine Carolina event in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on Sept. 11, 2022.&nbsp;</p>
FILE—University of South Carolina Student Body President Reedy Newton talks with staff at the Imagine Carolina event in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on Sept. 11, 2022. 

While Imagine Carolina was a success, President Michael Amiridis and Provost Donna Arnett need to continue this open line of communication by regularly meeting with the Carolina community. 

Amiridis and Arnett held Imagine Carolina — an event held by the USC administration to hear from students, faculty and staff — during the fall semester and around 200 students were in attendance.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to be heard by a university, which you don’t often get as individual students,” Patrick Koon, a second-year operations supply chain and an international business student, said. 

On Jan. 18, Amiridis released the administration's top-five priorities it will focus on, which stem from the feedback received during the student session, along with its plans on how it will address the areas of concern. 

“I think we have made progress,” Amiridis said in an interview with The Daily Gamecock. “I think that we are successfully addressing existing problems ... advising, which is one thing that came out loud and clear from the students, specifically from the students we are dealing with Wi-Fi. That was another issue that we faced. In Imagine Carolina actually, brought these issues into the surface.” 

The first issue that was brought to the administration's attention was mental health and well-being. Amiridis has now allocated $1 million to counseling services, which accounts mostly for hiring new positions and allowing access to 24/7 services. 

Mental health is one of the most important things that students need access to in college where high stressors are coming at them from every angle. Having 24/7 access to mental health services is essential. You can't decide when you're having a mental health crisis, it could be in the middle of the night. And the fact that the university acknowledged this as well as allocating money to hiring more staff is a great step. 

On-campus parking is the next priority. With around 25,000 undergraduate students and with thousands of faculty and staff, there's not enough parking spaces for everyone. 

“Concerns about parking are shared by faculty,” Mark Minett, vice prescient of the USC chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said. “But it is a quality of life kind of issue that impacts the classroom as well.” 

Minett said when students have to miss a class because they can't find a spot or are late it can affect them in the classroom since it takes them longer to settle in. Similarly, if a professor can't find a spot, they have to decide if they want to cancel class, which can cause the whole class to fall behind schedule. 

In an email sent to the students on Jan. 18, it still doesn’t appear as though the administration has a plan to help with this. While there are efforts to alleviate parking issues and provide additional parking areas, Amiridis himself said there will never be enough parking on campus 

"We have an urban campus, and there will never be enough proximal parking spaces for everyone all at once," Amiridis said in the email sent to students. 

There are solutions to this, however, such as a decrease in the number of parking passes sold or not allowing first-years who live on campus to bring their cars, decreasing the number of people who can park on campus at a given time. 

The next area of concern was Wi-Fi connectivity. During the fall semester, campus Wi-Fi was unreliable, and oftentimes, personal devices were not able to connect to eduroam or USC Guest in places like Russell House. 

Amiridis said in the email that administration is setting aside $3 million for classroom equipment upgrades and $6.5 for wireless network upgrades across campus. 

It’s unacceptable for a college campus to have spotty Wi-Fi. In most classes now, students use computers or other devices to take notes, and while you can use a notebook, some professors go fast through the slides. And with students living on campus, they need a place to do their homework without having to worry about whether the Wi-Fi is going to work that day. 

The fact that the administration is setting aside $9.5 million for both equipment updates for professors and campus-wide wi-fi is promising for the future. 

The next area is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In the email to students, Amiridis said every member of the Gamecock community should feel included, so Diversity, Equity and Inclusion needs to integrate into our core values. 

At USC, a predominately white institution (PWI), there has been a lack of POC both in the student body and in administration at USC. It’s important that students and faculty who come here are comfortable. The fact that the administration is at least adding new initiatives that allow students and faculty to feel more welcome in their own homes is a step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to be done. More specifically, the countless buildings on campus that represent racists and horrible human beings must be addressed. 

The last area Amiridis addressed in his email to students was academic advising. Students have fallen victim to different advisement styles across campus. 

The Office of the Provost is working on improving advisement by getting all the advisors on the same page from first-year to fourth-year advisors and also hiring more people for that department.

Students struggle with these identified problems often, sometimes daily. And it's gratifying that Amiridis is actually listening to students. 

“What’s really good is that Amiridis is taking those steps to actually keep his word and take the experiences of those students and really try to create change on campus, especially with the mental health department and advising,” Koon said. 

Yet, both Amiridis and Arnett need to make sure this is not a one-off event. Students, faculty and staff are more knowledgable than the administration about what problems are arising. They also need to make sure they are holding the administration accountable if they aren't continuing communication. 

"It's not even so much as, 'Do they take what was said?'" Minnett said. "It's really, 'Do they continue to engage in dialogue and collaboration with faculty?'" 

On Friday, Jan. 27, the administration held an Imagine Carolina for faculty. Similar to the student session, faculty members could voice their concerns.

From this session, the administration should really take into consideration what faculty have to say, make strides to fix the problems that are brought up and also make sure they continue to check in with them to see if these problems are being fixed. 

It’s promising to see Amridis and Arnett be so open and keep their promise of listening to the students, faculty and staff. But as his term continues, Amiridis needs to make sure that he is actively doing this by continuing meetings with student journalists, listening to student opinions and being an accessible person. 

And it looks like Amiridis is willing to do these things. 

“My intent also is this is not a one-time event,” Amiridis said. “Every year ... every two years, let's get together again, different students will be there, right? Let's see what is in their mind.” 


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