Student org holds second town hall, calls for transparency from absent VCU administration

The walkway next to Cabell Library is empty on March 23 after VCU moved to online instruction. Photo by Georgia Geen

Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer

VCU Student Power’s second town hall meeting, which was not attended by any members of VCU administration despite requests for them to appear, was marked by student frustration and calls for transparency from the university. 

The town hall meeting was held over Zoom on Thursday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. Around 25 students attended, though club officers said they expected a turnout of around 100 students, similar to the last town hall. Most people in the meeting were members of student org VCU Student Power, but several were not. 

The meeting was interrupted by vulgar language and inappropriate comments, referred to as a Zoom bomb, minutes after starting. The town hall was then paused for about 10 minutes, and the link had to be re-released to each student individually. Student Power has stopped listing their Zoom meeting IDs publicly because of a similar incident in the previous town hall.

Members of Student Power are still compiling a list of demands, which they will most likely release on Tuesday, said Steven Ramlogan, vice president of Student Power.

“I don’t think anything should be seen as unattainable,” Ramlogan said. “Even though we got partial housing and dining refunds, is it enough?”

Club officers said administrators did not attend because of other obligations, which was communicated to them via email on Wednesday. 

Ramlogan said attendance for this week’s meeting was not as high as anticipated because of the absence of VCU administrators, who students expected to be present, as well as VCU President Michael Rao. 

“Administration and President Rao not attending demonstrates a lack of concern for students and a lack of effort to engage themselves in student affairs. We had them state that they would attend this town hall at the last one, so this is particularly concerning.” – Steven Ramlogan, vice president of Student Power

The previous town hall held by VCU Student Power had about 80 students in attendance and was also interrupted by a Zoom bomb. Several VCU administration members were present at that meeting, including VCU Health CEO Peter Buckley.

Sabah Munshi, president of VCU Student Power, said the organization will try “alternative strategies” to communicate with administrators since they did not attend the town hall meeting, and that the organization will not be holding another town hall meeting in the foreseeable future. 

The group’s second meeting was used to collect stories from VCU students and draft a list of demands. Students at the meeting addressed many of the same concerns they did in last week’s strategy meeting, including payment for student workers and university staff, accessibility of online classes, student belongings being removed from the Honors College dorm, over-policing and student safety amid COVID-19.

Sophomore student Yasmin Woodard said she will not return to the university unless VCU has a plan to keep both its students and workers safe. She says her parents are worried that there is no plan to clean VCU before students return.

“My parents are very concerned,” Woodard said. “You have to remember that there are comorbidities that put people at risk. African Americans, indigenous people and Latinos are at higher risk. You have to think about the people who clean, what is their situation?”

The university released a COVID-19 update via email on Friday stating that VCU Facilities Management is cleaning and disinfecting campus facility common areas in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Tiana Ingram, a VCU alumna and OMSA’s program coordinator, asked students if there was anything she could do to help.

“Without students, there would be no VCU,” Ingram said. 

Towards the end of the meeting, the students began discussing their ongoing “No Policing in Mental Health” campaign, which aims to take VCU police officers out of the wellness check procedures at the university.

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