Sargent a no-show at SGA Forum

Article By: Jeff Fish and Angela Bray

In light of recent controversies surrounding President David Sargent’s salary, the SGA hosted a forum yesterday in the C. Walsh Theater where students could voice their questions and concerns to top administrators.

Among the invited panelists were Provost Barry Brown, Vice President and Treasurer Francis Flannery, Vice President of External Affairs John Nucci, and Vice President of Student Affairs Nancy Stoll. The only invited panelist not in attendance was President Sargent.

“[Sargent’s absence] was unfortunate,” said SGA secretary Christina Panagiotakos. “We were looking forward to speaking with him; he sends his regrets, as he is out of town today.”

The event began with remarks from SGA President and host of the event, Brian LeFort, and then brief introductions from each of the panelists. Over the next hour and a half, the panelists fielded questions from both LeFort and the students.

The first student question was from Journal Editor-in-Chief, senior Alex Pearlman who directed her question to Nucci about the Ride Along Program, specifically whether it is fair that students 21 or older who live in their own apartments off campus receive harsher punishments than students who live in the dorms, who are on campus and harsher under age.

Nucci said that the program helps to keep an eye on and discipline the way students behave, and reflects on the university’s interaction with neighbors. “It is fair to say the university has an obligation to do that.”

“Students are ambassadors for the university whether they live on or off campus. We need to respond to off-campus reports,” said Stoll.

“It seems we have a bad reputation with our alumni,” said SGA senator Jordan Nye to Provost Brown. “Do you plan to build our reputation so alumni will give back?”

Brown said we “historically didn’t ask much of our alumni. It is clear that we need help, but it won’t be instantly resolved.” He then introduced Vice President of Expansion Chris Mosher to speak about alumni.

SGA senator Jordan Nye asks panelists a question

SGA senator Jordan Nye asks panelists a question

“I’m a proud alumni of Suffolk Law School,” said Mosher. “This institution has matured significantly. We’re doing okay with alumni, parents, friends, and corporations. We’re trying to establish communications through blogs and email to communicate with alumni.”

The issue of Suffolk’s expansion plans was a major topic at the forum, with LeFort mentioning it in the beginning of the event before it was addressed several more times. Already under way are the Modern Theater dorms. Other plans being discussed are new sports, theater, and lab facilities, as well as a new student union center.

A student union is a priority, along with a new athletic facility and dorms, said Nucci. “To create that sense of community is what we strive for.”

Senior Bailey Costa asked for an elaboration on maintaining the purpose of the university. “How do you see it? Where does the funding go? Financially, what priorities are over the student center?”

“We’re not trying to get away from [building the student center],” said Nucci. “Financially, it’s going to be a challenge, but that won’t change our drive to provide those facilities.”

“Our primary goal is to maintain classrooms, labs, and libraries—the facilities that help you learn. We do hope to have places for students to gather,” added Brown. Suffolk intends to remain an urban university; however the issue is acquiring property in the area, as space is limited. “We will never give up the city as our campus. Suffolk is the equivalent of NYU in Boston.”

SGA Vice President Nick DiZoglio asked about vacant spots near 150 Tremont St. and West St. Nucci answered that there will be a Sal’s Pizza in the vacant spot next to 150 Tremont St., formerly occupied by the “C Store,” and a new restaurant run by the owners of Fajitas and Ritas on the corner of West and Washington Streets. The new restaurant will have a “grill-like concept” according to Nucci.

DiZoglio asked whether the restaurants would accept meal plans or RAM accounts, which Nucci did not know the answer to. Stoll said that they would hopefully accept RAM accounts, which Nucci called “a good idea.”

Seat left vacant by President Sargent

Seat left vacant by President Sargent

The university will also be renovating the dining facilities over winter break and taking steps to increase the capacity, according to Stoll. “There will be better choices as we expand options.”

The last question once again focused on the expansion of Suffolk when freshman Johnathan Grover asked, “How much are you willing to increase tuition over the next ten or fifteen years for expansion?”

“The university does not want expansion to exclude students for financial reasons,” said Nucci. “We are still the best buy in town. We want to be what we are, which is a school of access and opportunity. Expansion will provide state of the art facilities the students deserve.”

Flannery emphasized that Suffolk is ranked 39th in descending order of tuition cost. “We are trying to keep tuition as low as possible. We will be going to the Board of Trustees in February. Over 95 percent of our budget depends on tuition.” The tuition was only raised by 4.3 percent last year, the lowest in 33 years.

The event ended after a brief conclusion from Nucci and Brown.

“I was disappointed Sargent wasn’t here, he usually has good things to say,” said freshman Andrew Cataluna. “It was a good event though, with great transparency.”

“The speakers were receptive. This shows where the university is going; they’re interested in how we feel,” said Costa after the event. “But I did come partly because I thought Sargent would be here.”

Only around fifty students attended, which LeFort admitted was disappointing. A lot more people had said they would attend the event, which did not translate to the numbers in the crowd.

“It’s not every day you get four of the top administrators. I would have liked more questions though. I was surprised that no one took the initiative about President Sargent’s salary,” said LeFort. “If [the issue] lingers, it’ll be asked.”

LeFort refrained from questioning Sargent’s salary himself, stating that he, as student body President, has more opportunities to talk to the administrators. “I would encourage and like to see some response to the questions students are asking. “

LeFort acknowledged that Sargent only received the invitation a week ago because of a mix up in the President’s office.

“We’re not going to give up trying to have the president come and speak to students whether it’s in the C. Walsh Theater or another room. We want to continue having these events with different administrators to cover other topics,” said LeFort. “In the past, he has shown what he thinks of his students in his tenure. I know that he cares for the students but this event was an important one.”