Carver, Toston hear student concerns in first listening session

The rule in Margaret Toston’s office is to, “Never send a student away,” and after the first listening session of the semester, that motto seems to run true for all administrators at UTM.

Toston is the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, meaning she works directly with Chancellor Keith Carver to ensure that students are happy at UTM. This session was held as an open time for students to create a dialogue between administrators and students about the concerns students have for campus.

Though there was no set structure to the way conversation flowed, natural categories arose as students built on each other’s thoughts. Some of those categories included funding, provided services and the process students go through when they are new to UTM. Toston reminded students that even if questions were asked, they may not be answered immediately. In the later session of the semester, administrators hope to invite authorities from different departments to provide insight on questions previously asked.

In a crowd of roughly 20 people, you could hear all kinds of pleas. One student, an art major with dreams of going to Japan, asked Carver to look into art majors being allowed to have minors, which would ease their argument for assistive funding for travel studies.

A sister of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. asked what could be done to alert students of changes happening in their account that could possibly effect the functions of their Skyhawk Card like getting lunch or swiping onto residences.

One student was very concerned about rumors she has heard about a petition asking for student signatures to support concealed carry of guns for students over the age of 21. Carver commented that this issue, at heart, is up to the state legislature. Others in the room speculated that state legislature would argue against allowing concealed carry among students, however the possibility is there. Toston took this opportunity to remind students that if they have concerns about large issues like this, their rights as a voter allow them to have their voice heard.

Carver commented later in the evening that a piece of the Soar in Four resolution was to improve the quality of advisors, seeing as several of the questions and comments made throughout the evening discussed difficulties with advisors or a lack of equal communication between different advisors and their students, it should be no question that this is a concern the administration is looking into.

A transfer student from Union University took the time to comment on her experiences with transitioning to Martin. Though her story is similar to many transfer students, it is not going unnoticed. She toured the school as a student, but then went to SOAR with her sister, she argued that just as freshmen need success counselors, so do transfer students. Many, she says, whom come from community colleges still need help of adjusting to the college world and UTM should afford them the same amenities granted to those coming from high school.

What one student suggested as a simple fix, is the desire for descriptions under different departments on campus. She posed the theory that many students do not know the difference in Career Planning and Development and Student Success. If the university provided description somewhere of what each department handles, students would better know who to contact with problems and for assistance. Toston said that this could be very easily remedied.

Wednesday’s session was the first of the semester. Toston said there will be an online component where students will have the opportunity to plug in to the discussion afterwards and keep up with what was discussed. It is projected that Carver will hold two listening sessions per semester, one towards the beginning and one towards the end that includes updates on previous matters discussed. All sessions are casual and students are encouraged to attend, even if they can only go for a short amount of the time.

The other session for this semester is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 5 – 6:30 p.m. in UC room 111, the Legislative Chambers. Questions regarding listening sessions or anything else can be directed to the student affairs office at 731-881-7710.

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