VCU administration should be taking Student Power at VCU more seriously

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

There’s no doubt that being a student during this unprecedented time is a struggle beyond belief. Now, being a VCU student feels even more draining than anywhere else. Being one of the biggest art schools in the nation, moving online feels impossible. The drying up of funding for student workers feels like a nearing doom, as well as the lack of refunds on flat rate fees.

All of these student concerns are being heard — just not by VCU or its administration. Student Power at VCU is a student organization that works to hear the issues and frustration from the student body and help deliver it to VCU. In the past two weeks, they’ve started using a new platform for hearing student grievances: a virtual town hall. 

The group holds town halls through Zoom meetings, open to any student wanting to share their concerns or listen to the conversation. It’s an opportunity that most students who aren’t a part of major organizations on campus usually don’t have. 

The town hall is meant to connect students and VCU administration together, but I don’t believe VCU cares enough to take the situation seriously. Many students who have attended the meeting have left equally, if not more frustrated with VCU’s lack of answers.

In fact, Student Power members are claiming VCU isn’t giving a clear response to any questions or concerns related to COVID-19. That’s an issue for me because these students are trying, yet the energy is not being reciprocated by administration. It would be one thing if students were complaining on social media but taking no action to solve the issues at hand. However, Student Power is trying their hardest to create a conversation thread between students and administration. They are trying to build trust, and VCU is just breaking it down.

“Students need to feel like their voices are being heard by the same administration that promised it would do so in their acceptance letters.” — Tagwa Shammet, opinions editor

During the first virtual town hall, students asked Peter Buckley, interim vice president and CEO of VCU Health System, about the scandal at the Honors College, where students’ belongings were moved without their permission or knowledge. He apologized during the meeting, saying the university was “performing in a crisis.”

“Just like you, all of us are stretched and stressed. We do our best and we make mistakes and clearly, we made a mistake around this.” — Peter Buckley, interim vice president and CEO of VCU Health System

Am I the only one who finds this completely unacceptable? I don’t even live in that building, yet I find an apology quite ingenuine and miniscule given the situation. A university as esteemed and plentiful as VCU should be moving smarter than that. An apology doesn’t erase what happened, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks that because similar points were made during the town hall.

I understand that this is a very difficult time for VCU; they are juggling so many things at once. But so are we. Students need to feel like their voices are being heard by the same administration that promised it would do so in their acceptance letters.  

Student Power at VCU is working diligently to create a list of student grievances and demands to present to VCU during their town hall meeting next week. My hope is that VCU will take this list seriously and work just as hard as its students to have these demands met. 

For updates on the next VCU town hall meeting, follow @studentpowervcu on Twitter and Instagram.

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