A fireside chat with the President

Written by: Gretchen Sims | Edition-in-Chief

Western’s President, Jesse Peters, joined by the Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Dominique Vargas, and the Vice President of Student Affairs, Tina Fulch, got down to earth by meeting students face-to-face in a very casual manner — around the fireplace in the Richard Woodcock Educational Center no less.

This Nov. 2 meeting was a way for students to bring their concerns to the attention of people who have the power to take them into consideration and enact real change. 

The chat offered a comfortable environment that encouraged students to speak their minds — the inclusion of hot chocolate, tea and sweet treats also helped students feel invited to bring forth their grievances.

One of the first topics brought up by students was the mysterious disappearance of scholarship funds. Many students were missing scholarships this school year. Many were forced to pay their student bills without finding out what had happened to their money — despite many unhelpful and uninformative calls to the financial aid office. 

Tina Fulch answered this question with great concern, stating that if this has happened to any student, they should not give up on their scholarships. The financial aid office is horrendously understaffed and it is taking longer than usual to distribute funds. 

If one has already paid their student bill before getting some or all of their scholarships, the funds will be returned in the form of a reimbursement check at the end of the term. 

Another issue raised by students was the unreliability and impractical design of the school’s portal — citing that the widgets at the top are all different shapes and spaces apart. Additionally, crashes almost prevented them from paying their student bill on the day it was due. 

Fulch considered this and will bring up a possible redesign to the Director of UCS.

Faith DeVyldere, an Education student at Western who student-teaches at Oregon Child Development Coalition in Independence, brought up the fact that student teachers are unable to afford school and housing due to the fact that they hold unpaid positions. Western has many education students, but they are struggling because there is no help for them once they begin their stints as student teachers — rent and school can be expensive if one is working without pay. Fulch recommended talking with the Dean.

Overall, the general consensus was that people are starting to come out from hiding after COVID and are beginning to become active on campus again. Western’s campus has come to life this past year, and the small things, like this fireside chat, prove that the students are ready to make a difference and change Western for the better.  

Contact the author at howleditorinchief@wou.edu