Meeting Minutes for SGA Big Cheese, 2/12/2023
In Attendance from E-Board:
President Ananya Hindocha ‘23
Vice President Desi Bagot ‘24
Secretary Bryn Osborne ‘24
Co-Treasurer Catherine Fu ‘23
Co-Treasurer Lola Rodrigues ‘23
Honor Board Chair Carlee Warfield ‘23
- Big Cheese
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: Hi everyone, thank you for coming to Big Cheese. I’m Ananya Hindocha, the SGA President. For anyone who hasn’t come before, we collect questions from the community, organize them and then ask senior staff and admin questions that are on students’ minds. That’s how it’s going to work tonight. Just some reminders, please be respectful, and try to come from a place of understanding as we go over questions. I’m going to read out the questions. We have an idea on the PowerPoint of who might be the best person to answer but if someone else wants to speak, that’s totally fine. We will pass the mic around and dive right in. First question: Given inflation and our discrepancy in student wages compared to other institutions and off-campus businesses, are there plans to increase student wages next year? Additionally, what will the sick pay policy be for next year?
Kari Fazio: My name is Kari Fazio and I am the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, I’ve been here for around 8 years. We’re always looking for the ability to increase wages every fiscal year, not just for students but staff and faculty as well. We do our best to distribute evenly and to recognize the impact of inflation on all audiences and other programmatic costs, food, etc to make sure we can keep up, never mind discussions of expansion. We will certainly look at student wages, we have increased wages all but 2 years over the past 20 years without making modifications to the amount of work in the financial aid packages. This is technically making financial aid packaging more generous. We haven’t yet determined next year’s budget so we don’t know but are working through it. We will discuss this with the college budget committee and other representatives before we make the final recommendations. We recognize and want to reward student labor, but we have to look at all constituencies and recognize that all of those. Part of your question is about different schools’ wages, and wages are different by states, the minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25 and other states it is over $15, so we are well above Pennsylvania state wages. Part of it is regulatory, we are above the state minimum wage but want to be as generous as we can be in terms of balancing priorities. For sick pay, we did institute a sick pay, and we are the only school of our peers that offers sick pay for students. We retained this on a permanent basis at the start of this year after COVID. We limit paid sick time to make sure it’s comparable to what professional staff is receiving Students can get 5 paid days per six month period, they need to have worked 75 hours to qualify. Given the last Dec 31 deadline, it made sense to poll data, and there were about 75 students who actually exceeded their allocation and some people submitted up to 12 days which is a challenge and gives people pause about continuing the policy. I will also say that 40% of the hours were taken on the last pay period of the year, which may be related to finals and periods of high study and students who are taking time away from work. We will continue to evaluate moving forward and hope that students will be respectful and use it as intended. I hope that answers the question.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: How are students being supported given the extended absence of Kim Taylor, our Title-IX coordinator? Is there a plan to provide more support for students undergoing the Title IX process, as Kim Taylor works across both Haverford and Bryn Mawr?
Cheryl Horsey: I’m Cheryl Horsey, I’m the Chief Enrollment Officer and the interim Dean of the Undergraduate College. Kim Taylor has returned this semester. We are very aware that her position supports two campuses and that she is running back and forth. She works closely with people at Haverford and is aware that there are gaps. We have put forward some ideas for next year, including adding health education on both campuses and we are thinking about having staff at each campus to be health educators in order to make sure students understand Title IX policies, and making them more clear. We have been working on a diagram this semester that would clearly lay out the process, as we have heard from students that the process is confusing and unclear. We think the diagram is the best way to go, and we hope to have it out this semester. We are listening and we know you want more support and education, we are looking at working with John Mcknight at Haverford and to see how we can best meet the needs of both campuses.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: Does the college have a timeline to hire staff and introduce programs that will address the urgent need for mental health services at Bryn Mawr? And specifically for Keisha, what are some plans you have for your new position as Director of Counseling?
Keisha Smith: I’m Keisha Smith, the new Director of Counseling Services. February 17th will be my one month at Bryn Mawr. As far as hiring, Polly O’Keefe left and I’m the new director of counseling. The Associate Director position is open and there are a number of applicants and I’m making sure to bring in the right person. Hopefully we will have that done by March. We are also hiring a temporary counselor to fulfill more needs for this semester. We want to make sure that people are a good fit. We are also offering a number of groups this semester. Group therapy is a good way to connect with peers and counselors in the counseling center, as the best opportunity for learning is from someone experiencing the same thing as you. There are 6 groups including case management to help find resources off-campus if needed during summer and on breaks or other needs, cultivating calm, chaotic families, and others. HCAB has information on their instagram. This semester will be more of a group model on top of providing individual services when we can.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: We’ve gotten feedback from students who feel that the food quality at the dining hall has decreased in the past semester specifically regarding vegan and vegetarian options. We also received comments that students who have religious and dietary restrictions, specifically those who eat Halal, have a hard time eating in the dining halls. Can you speak to how dining services plan to address these concerns?
David Chase: I’m David Chase from Dining. With dining services, the first question was about vegetarian dining. We put a strong emphasis on vegetarian and plant-forward programming. As part of our menu committee, that is a primary function, as well as providing protein sources and to always make sure that those options are available at every meal. Obviously, New Dorm is more focused and has a specific area, Rooted, for vegetarian and plant-forward dining. As I said, that’s a primary focus, and there are avenues for people to make suggestions. Email is always available. As far as navigating dining halls, we have a registered dietician on staff who is always available to help people with restrictions, Natalie Zaparzynski. She is always available for consultations and nutritional guidance, better understanding as to how to eat a well-balanced diet or for conditions like celiac. I strongly encourage students to meet with her to navigate dining halls better. The question talked about religious restrictions, we work closely with Rabbi Nora who is the multifaith chaplain on campus. For Muslim students who are participating in the Halal diet, we have a venue for that. There is a Woofoo form available where students can order lunch and dinner every day, which has several protein sources. It is newly implemented this year and a number of students have an interest. It is very expensive, which is one of the main reasons we don’t offer it to all students. If students have an interest they can go speak to Rabbi Nora and she can help navigate access to Woofoo form. We also work with Hillel, particularly during Passover, and help with supplies. We are doing the same thing with MSA for Ramadan. There is also the kitchen in the wellness center. These groups come weekly, give a list of supplies for things that are a little more dangerous in terms of food safety, eggs, produce and protein, etc, and we give students the opportunity to prepare food on their own.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: There continue to be lots of issues staffing the dining halls. Why do you think that there are fewer students working in dining, along with fewer full-time staff, and what is the plan to address this?
David Chase: As I’m sure you all realize, staffing is a huge challenge. We are down significantly in the student workforce between 50-60 shifts per week in dining, Uncommon is not as impacted. This is an ongoing challenge, and we are working with student managers and location managers to try to navigate that and figure out the best recruitment strategy. This has been a trend over several years, there are less and less students interested in working in dining. I’m sure there are similar concerns around campus but we employ over 300 students and when availability is depleted, it impacts operations. Additionally, we have a shortage of full-time staff for various reasons, including people leaving or out on medical leave. In years past it was rare that we had full time vacancies, but this has been more and more challenging since the pandemic. The available workforce is just smaller. This is something admin acknowledges and is aware of and we will continue to work on it. We utilize 3 temporary agencies but as far as consistency it makes it challenging as they send different people in on a regular basis.
Kari Fazio: This feeds back into the first question. As we’ve made wages more generous, students are less reliant on their labor. When we look at student hours worked, they are down 15-17% in the last two years. That’s fine, but it forces us to have to backfill with permanent staff where we would have typically gotten students. If we continue to expect that students will not work to the same degree, we will have to backfill with other staffing sources.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: Over the past few semesters, there has been a lack of on-campus housing for students. What is being done to remedy this problem? Could Cambrian Row or Arnecliffe be renovated and used as student housing?
Cheryl Horsey: We have had several conversations regarding student housing. What we’ve done recently is pulled people together to look at estimates for junior year abroad, transfer students, first years, and capacity that we have within halls. These conversations have helped us realize overall what the actual number is for first-year students. I have to take responsibility for 2020 and 2021, we did not anticipate so many students would attend during Covid. We build a model on “melt,” or students who decide to stay home or take a gap year, and students did not melt at the level they did in past. That’s why we feel this crunch. Those folks are ending their terms soon, but we will pull back on the number of first years allowed in the class of 2027. On expanding the undergraduate student body, I am the co-chair of the committee on optimal student enrollment, and we don’t need to expand the enrollment size because it has such an impact. We’ve expanded our definition to optimal student success, and that does not mean increasing student enrollment, where we are now is fine.
Kari Fazio: Facilities is part of my responsibilities, as well as finance and administration. We are hopeful to renovate Arnecliffe and other underutilized buildings, but not for residency purposes, and they would not house a large number of students anyways. We send out acceptance letters but we don’t know who will accept. Enrollment has drifted up with the classes of 25 and 26 and they are larger than we targeted, but as we move them through we will hopefully resume more normal levels of enrollment. Study abroad also influences numbers.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: Over the past semester, several intramural athletics clubs have expressed interest to SGA in being a part of the athletics department. Would you be open to creating these relationships? Also, what is your vision for the future of the athletics department?
Cristina Fink: I’m Cristina Fink, the new Athletics Director. I’m not going to talk that long because of time, but I have worked with several clubs already and accommodated fencing into the gym and give them hours. The problem we have is space. We have very limited space, varsity teams are training with volleyball and basketball together, badminton doesn’t get to train until 8:30 at night. It is difficult to get other sports in there from intramurals to clubs, but I am always open to finding a way to accommodate if we can and willing to explore different options. As far as a vision that I have, I believe athletics can transform lives. I want to do that not just for student-athletes but for the whole community. I am looking at different ways and working with Tonja on expanding more offerings for PE to meet different needs, and want to make sure we are addressing PE and not just athletics.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: A lot of people asked on our form about COVID testing and why we aren’t having biweekly or monthly Covid testing as we used to?
Beth Kotarski: I’m Beth Kotarski, I’ve been here 2.5 years as the Medical Services Director. When I hear COVID testing I think back to the very first testing we did in a little pop-up tent outside of the old health center. It was bright orange, we were all geared up and in the tent with students. We’ve come a long way, and we follow every policy from the American College Health Association. I’m on on the infectious disease committee along with folks from around the country, and particularly Johns Hopkins and Harvard have been helpful in our planning. We also have to defer to the state of Pennsylvania and the Montgomery county health department. We have what is the norm for testing at colleges and universities across the country. We are based on 2 kinds of tests, first molecular PCR and other electrophoresis and that can pick up parts of viral DNA for longer periods of time past infection, and antigen tests, which are a more effective during active infection. We have both tests available. Our testing is driven by symptoms, because if folks have symptoms, they’ll be most infectious. That’s been borne out pretty consistently, especially with the newest X-type lineage of omicron. Because of that, our current tests are very effective at picking up viral antigens as well as DNA types with PCR testing and molecular testing. We do all of it, we ask students if they feel ill to come in and get evaluated. If they’ve been exposed and want to be tested immediately, we’ve started to have the COVID triage nurse visit with students this semester to see when the best time to test would be. If they remain asymptomatic up to day 5, we give a molecular test and if they become symptomatic, an antigen test. Doing wider college asymptomatic testing has been shown not to be the best use of public health resources, as timing wise people can be infected and recover from infectiousness during the period. That’s what we care about, but PCR can pick up positives long after the infectious period, and it is more difficult and complicated to decide if someone is infectious as opposed to the antigen test. That’s why the American College Health Association has moved to antigen testing. The county is offering PCR testing through an online form asking about symptoms, but are only doing symptomatic testing.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: Can we get an update on the DEI requirement?
Tim Harte: I’m Tim Harte, the provost of the college. The DEI requirement is up and running, the registrar is sending out a form for faculty to submit courses that would begin in the fall. That would be open for class of 2027, and it’s fairly straightforward. There will be questions about what qualifies as a power equity and justice course and what fulfills it, we are open to discussion. I haven’t personally been involved but the curriculum committee and associate provost Michael Allen have been working on it. It’s an interesting question for the campus, it got it passed through faculty and will be a great addition to the curriculum.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: That’s all of our panel questions. We are not going to do small groups in the interest of time, as everyone needs to get to their Superbowl parties, but are there any questions from the audience or panelists?
Kari Fazio: I’m interested in hearing from you guys about why students might be working less, and can we count on that trend continuing or changing?
Saule Aoki ‘24: I think it comes down to pay. If you have an hour or two hours, my best friend has job at sweetgreen that pays $15 an hour, am I going to work at dining hall or off-campus? For me, even being a supervisor has no pay incentive. Sudents are in charge of our own financial planning just like the college is, and any job in Bryn Mawr town makes more money than on-campus.
Bryn Osborne ‘24: I don’t have data so this may be anecdotal, but I’ve heard that a lot of students, especially seniors, are getting dropped from upper level classes that are essential to their graduation plans. Why is this?
Tim Harte: Some of that is anecdota., Generally 300s and 200s are relatively easy to get in to, there will be exceptions. There have been given the fact that sophomore and first-year courses are large. There are a number of courses overenrolled. I’ve met with Cheryl Horsey and the Registrar and Dean Balthazar from the Dean’s office about ways to address it. I’ve hired more interims than past provosts, more than in the past, and am trying to make amends for that. This is good to know, and I suggest that students reach out if there are certain concern in departments. Psychology is the department we’re the most concerned about, they’re constantly asking for more interim support. That’s what we’re trying to do, it’s being addressed as well as we can in real-time.
Saule Aoki ‘24: I’ve been looking into the board of trustees recently, and there is an extreme lack of transparency on how they get in and what financial decisions they make. I’m not sure if it’s worth talking to administration, because I don’t know who is in charge of what. Having a list of things where things are decided and explaining how we self-advocate would be better for our sake and time. Like when is it better to go to Board of Trustees or admin? If the board of trustees was a federal government, it would be corrupt. Can anyone speak to that?
Kari Fazio: I’ll say they’re not, and I think that’s offensive.
Saule Aoki ‘24: Maybe it’s incomeptence, not corruption.
Kari Fazio: About the board, in higher education we have a very interesting structure. Faculty have the most influence over certain aspects of governing the college, administration has the day to day responsibility of running the college, and the board gives overall oversight and strategic direction. There are things that are technically their responsibility, but they don’t have higher ed expertise. Research folks and professors, they know the institution and look at longterm for what they think will make the institution will have success. They approve the budget before we spend it, but they’re not involved in day to day figuring out of departmental allocation, and are not involved in that level of detail. They give us strategic advice, for example moving towards renovating buildings, they will ask where resources are and how they are set aside. I present the dollars as hopefully something that can be easily interpreted by different audiences. Really, it is senior staff as a collective that makes decisions about how to prioritize money, and we make that decision with the budget committee and other campus constituencies.
Saule Aoki ‘24: Do you vote formally or just decide amongst yourselves?
Kari Fazio: Not a vote, we have conversations
Saule Aoki ‘24: Do you talk to faculty during these conversations? Faculty I’ve talked to says they aren’t being listened to around financial allocation.
Kari Fazio: Not being listened to and not getting your own way are different things.
Saule Aoki ‘24: I think the lack of transparency is holding back the process.
Kari Fazio: I don’t know a specific example, but there’s lots of financial information on the website. There are graphics and financial statement audits, tax returns, and financial information is publicly available to students as well as outside communities. We try to do an open forum 1-2 times a year where we talk about the budget, how we prioritize, what we prioritize, and students who couldn’t come came to my office to talk about it.
Saule Aoki ‘24: I did look at the financial documents on the website. I saw that there is a disproportionate amount of raises. I don’t know if student workers…[missing transcript] I did the calculations but over the past 5 years the trend continued, 3.43% raise for the bottom 3000 workers and a 10% raise for the top 14. Will student wages be raised in proportion to the top people and your own wage?
Kari Fazio: In the current year, we raised student wages in higher proportion than faculty and staff, students got 10% where faculty and staff were 7-7.5% in the total pool. Some money everyone got and some were targeted where they were disproportionately below where analysis showed they should be. Students had a larger increase than faculty and staff this year, the staff salary pool and faculty have generally been the same.
Saule Aoki ‘24: So you are planning to catch up to the market value of student wage?
Kari Fazio: I’m not sure I understood the question, but we try and pay the market for higher education, otherwise we would never have employees.
Saule Aoki ‘24: That’s why people are dropping out
Sakinah Rahman: I would add to transparency, as Kari mentioned, financial statements are on the college website. The budget committee that was referenced is a way to engage constituencies on campus, faculty staff and students are all a part of that, and there are other avenue to increase transparency.
Kari Fazio: SGA reps are involved on the finance committee, along with graduate students.
Saule Aoki ‘24: I’m from D.C. so I know about constituencies when they are listened to. Are you listening to them?
Kari Fazio: Yes, of course we listen to them and are concerned. We cannot do everything for everybody. We are an ambitious institution and want to reward and retain staff, students and professionals, as well as expanding staff to offer new programming. It’s a matter of balancing all of those things as well as being financially sustainable and prudent. We’re trying to push forward on multiple fronts, but we cannot give everyone everything they want, respectful of the fact that wages and benefits for staff and students are what we do.
Sakinah Rahman: Be mindful that senior staff and budget committee get more budget requests than dollars to support those requests. Some people might not get it in the fiscal year, that’s not satisfying but a number of considerations are going through and pay and wages for students are certainly an important consideration.
Ananya Hindocha ‘23: That’s our time, thank you everyone so much for coming and for your participation.
Meeting adjourned at 6:00 pm