Status of Multicultural Affairs Office announced at second listening session

At the second listening session on Tuesday, Nov. 14, Chancellor Keith Carver and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Margaret Toston announced the status of the Multicultural Affairs Office.

“In brief, thanks to the chancellor and Petra [McPhearson, Interim Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration], we’ve finally decided on what we’re going to do to improve the services from that office,” Toston said.

The position title has been elevated with Carver’s approval and a search committee has been formed. Political Science student Devin Majors will serve as the student member of the committee.

The completed paperwork goes to Joe Henderson, director of Equity and Diversity and Titles VI and IX coordinator, and Toston said she expects to have the position advertised within the next three weeks. Resumes will be collected, though she said the search committee will not meet until around February in order to have the position filled by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.

Additionally, Toston said the design of this post and how it will intertwine with areas of student life has been decided and duties are being finalized.

“There will be more emphasis on programming to address some of the things that you have talked about in terms of having things to do not only during homecoming but more activities for all students, particularly of color,” Toston said.

The location of the center was questioned by a student participant.

“One of the responsibilities for the position that we’re going to hire, is spelled out there that this position will be responsible for helping others figure that out, get the proposal together and actually move forward with this so that it isn’t just always a conversation, but that we actually move forward with that,” Toston replied.

Student Morgan Robertson, president of the Spectrum club, said that the group was looking forward to the opening of the center.

“We represent a certain slice of diversity that’s not readily apparent to the eye and all kinds of diversity are very valuable to expanding people’s horizons and really contributing to what you get out of the university,” Robertson said. “… There are some things that we’re trying to get rolling as Spectrum that I really think if we had a designated person for minority affairs, they could come to fruition a lot easier.”

Other discussed student concerns included:

  • The location of smoking areas around the Humanities Building; Carver mentioned that UT Chattanooga and the Memphis Health Science Center had moved to a smoke free campus, and he said that he would check into it.
  • The monitoring of SGA by the administration to prevent special interest group interference
  • Student freedom of graduation attire, especially cap decorations
  • Hours of IT availability
  • Bringing Safe Zone programming to UTM and training appropriate candidates
  • The ability to appeal parking tickets
  • Professionals brought to the career fair and job shadowing or exposure opportunities for student

A presentation was also given by Career Counselor, Dr. Annie Jones, before open questions, about measures that had been taken to address concerns brought to the table at the previous session on Oct. 18.

Jones gave clarification concerning parking tickets and when they can be appealed; the status of the gospel choir; and holds placed on student accounts for dining services. Jones said this is not done by the Bursar’s Office, but by Sodexo, for those who are on a payment plan. She went on to say that Sodexo would send a notice about due payment through email to students.

She also spoke about the $25 drop course fee and acknowledged that a note about the fee was not found on the ‘Add/Drop’ page in Banner. This has been corrected.

Another voiced concern was a lack of direct communication between the students and administration. For this, an email address, studentaffairs@utm.edu has been created.

“It comes to the Student Affairs administration office and that is a way that we can send out updates to them like what we’ve done with what they said tonight and for them to constantly have an avenue to communicate with us and send suggestions,” said Debi Adcock, administrative specialist in the Student Affairs office.

A website of the same nature has been proposed and likened to a platform at Murray State University called the ‘Retention Selfie.’

More research is being conducted into activities for minorities to participate in such as Greek gardens, homecoming festivities and other alternatives.

Dr. Rich Helgeson, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs; Joe Henderson, director of Equity and Diversity and Titles VI and IX coordinator; Mark McCloud, director of Career Services; Renard Miles, coordinator and employee relations person for Career Services; Jones; and Adcock were also present and answered student questions.

The next listening session will be held February 15, 2018, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in 206 University Center.

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