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SGA brings back Coffee and Conversations, addresses student concerns

On Wednesday morning, the Student Government Association served up free coffee with a slice of opportunity for students to air grievances.

As an installation of their recurring program, Coffee and Conversation, SGA members manned tables in high traffic locations around campus, including the Beaman and the lobby of Massey. Truthfully, the drinks came at a small price in the form of a brief survey concerning student life at Belmont.

Some students breezed through the survey for the drinks, but others, like sophomore Alex Walton, skipped the coffee and used the opportunity to offer some specific feedback.  Walton said she wanted to see improved Wi-Fi on campus, but also had some positive comments.

“I talked about how I liked the [Linked Cohort Classes], because I just took a linked class and before it, I was hesitant about the benefits, but afterwards, I saw the benefits,” Walton said.

Walton’s comments and others will be compiled as data and presented to different members of senior leadership, depending on the subject.

A recent success story from the Coffee and Conversation initiative came in the form of another drink: water.

“We just passed legislation to get a Brita filter in Russell Hall,” SGA member Mary Garcia said.  “Through our suggestion boxes we realized that was something people wanted.”

For the SGA members behind the tables, seeing results adds value to their work in student government.

“It’s cool to say that SGA is going to do that for you,” SGA member Madison Kendrick said.

And it’s a bit refreshing to see a small suggestion met and put into place.  Despite the recent ribbon cutting at the Gabhart Student Center, students often use the SGA suggestion boxes to get grabby.

“We’re constantly hearing the students want more student space, more gym space and more space for Greek life.  We’re kind of greedy students.  We want more of everything,” SGA member Meredith Edwards said.

What some students may not realize is, of course, solutions to even the smallest of problems, like putting a different fountain in a dormitory, must be filtered through layers of legislation and various steps of action.  And through the purification process, students might not like what trickles down.

That doesn’t mean the suggestion boxes don’t have value, though.

“Events like this are important because there’s substantial data from these conversations to take to the administration,” SGA President Chris Dickerson said.

It’s one thing for Dickerson to say he has heard some students talking about something and quite another to present a stack of data to the right senior leadership officials.

“I have tons of faith in the administration to listen to students. I don’t think the problem is people don’t listen.  I think sometimes students aren’t satisfied with the response they get, if they get a response,” Dickerson said.

Not every request will be met.  But to Dickerson, that’s not necessarily what it’s all about.

“This gives students some hope that someone is listening, even if they may not like the answers,” Dickerson said.  “It’s not always about getting things changed.  Sometimes students just want to be heard.”

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