The Independent’s Editors Response to Student Government Association Town Hall

All Editors

  1. How are you including student’s in your decision making? What initiatives have you made to ensure you act in the best interest of the students in your college?


Mike Bedell Ph.D Dean College of Business and Technology:

The students advisory council is exactly that. It’s composed of student leaders that we interact with to ensure that we are keeping students front and center in our decisions. We have also appointed a staff professional –funded by differential tuition – to make sure that we are intentionally developing leadership skills of any student interested in participating. That individual also has a budget for student leadership development. Finally, as this is about outcome variables such as student jobs, the Dean maintains an executive council of business leaders that meet seven times per year to talk about the ongoing changing requirements of jobs and to provide information to faculty to keep curriculum up to date.

Tom Philion Ph.D. Dean Goodwin College of Education:

Right now, I use opportunities like graduation, honor society events, and program meetings with students to get input from students. I also have an open door policy and have had several students stop into my office when they have questions or concerns. All of these interactions feed into a variety of other feedback that I receive from others who work directly with students both inside and outside of classroom settings.

Katrina Bell-Jordan, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences:

There are no formal initiatives on this front, because student success and support are at the forefront of all decisions the College makes. That said, the College leverages student viewpoints in decision making on issues most relevant to students through: ideas/input from CAS student organizations; input from student representatives on the University’s shared governance bodies; reports/feedback from the Student Government Association (SGA); and informal comments/feedback at University town halls. The College also asks our program leadership to funnel student-related priorities and issues to the Dean’s Office so that we can incorporate student perspectives in our College-level priority setting processes, planning and decision making.


Ananth Prabhu, Sports Section Editor of the Independent:

Dr. Bedell emphasized that the Student Advisory Board (SAB) holds the responsibility for students in the decisions being made to support students’ best interest. Currently, NEIU’s SAB is composed of five students from various academic backgrounds and collegiate levels. I think Dr. Bedell’s response is fair, but more student voices can be heard by including frequent student feedback surveys and student focus groups to have greater student representation.

Dr. Bedell mentioned “a staff professional also has a budget for student leadership development.” Transparency and communication with students are crucial when discussing funding and budgets, as it is the students who ultimately pay for the university’s operations. For example, as a sports editor, I have received countless inquiries about information regarding the NEIU’s Campus Recreation dysfunctional swimming pool. Thus, I understand how important transparency and communication would be in order to gain the trust of students, community members and their constituents. Various channels exist to spread the word about the technicalities of university duties and responsibilities. A few such channels include targeted-emails to students, staff, faculty and their constituents, mass-emails to everyone with an email address, numerous social media outlets and the university’s official website. 

Dr. Philion accentuated “graduation, honor society events and program meetings” for obtaining student feedback, and I appreciate that he has publicly announced “an open-door policy [for] students [to] stop into [his] office [with] questions or concerns.” After hearing his announcement, I commend him, and I hope more students will follow-up on his offer to address their concerns in-person during his office hours by lining up at his door. Dr. Philion addressed that he is an advocate to the concerns that happen “inside of classroom settings,” such as academics and “outside of classroom settings,” such as extra-curricular activities that may include Campus Recreation and the disuse of the campus swimming pool. I think if more students take advantage of addressing their common concerns either individually or in focus groups, progress can be made to repair the deficits that may exist on campus, such as the currently shutdown campus swimming pool.

Bell-Jordan mentioned College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) student organizations, Student Government Association (SGA) and feedback at University town halls are the sources of ideas to make relevant decisions to support student success. According to Student Leadership Development (SLD), “the SGA is composed of three distinct agglomerating bodies: the Council of Clubs (16 reps), justices (5) and senate (16 senators).” Thus, it is imperative to have the clear communication channels between each of these segments, which aim to prioritize student success. SGA holds the power to empower individual student voices and elevate those voices to reach the ears of the administration. To reiterate, I think surveys and student focus groups should also be considered to obtain feedback in addition to Bell-Jordan’s comment.

This is a very important time to improve the outlook of campus representation at the student level because elections are just around the corner. According to an NEIU Campus Events targeted email, candidate positions for student justices are currently open because “candidate registration application must be completed by March 31st at noon” and “elections will take place online from April 8th – April 14th.” Interested students who want to represent the voices of the student body “must attend a Candidate Training which will take place either in-person or via Zoom” during the week of this newspaper issue.

Overall, I think that the following must be improved: transparency of actions and funding, communication between all departments, the administration and board of trustees, increased communication channels to include everybody in the campus community and frequent surveys and focus groups from the individual students. The premise of intelligible decision-making can be vastly improved when teamwork is applied across the entire NEIU campus. The best interest of student success will certainly be obtained when all the cogs of all the departments, the administration and board of trustees mesh with the input from each and every student across campus.

  1. How are you involving students when you have to make decisions in regards to the budget?

Manish Kumar, Vice President for Finance and Administration:

The Budget Director meets with SGA about fees and the general budget each year and will continue to do so. The actual budget decisions are made by the financial managers once the control numbers are distributed. At the direction of the president, the VPs work with financial managers and consider student support and services and student success when making budgetary decisions.


Monty Stites, Editor-in-Chief of the Independent:

This response to the question only mentions who of the student body the Budget Director meets with and what it is they meet about. It does not address the crux of the question, which is how these students are involved in the process by which these decisions are made. Sure, it is good to know that SGA meets with the Budget Director about fees students are required to pay and what changes will be made to the budget. However, this statement still leaves much to be desired. How does SGA communicate the needs of the student body to the Budget Director? How does SGA source these needs from their fellow students? 

How do they involve non SGA affiliated students?

This response, while addressing the what and who, – which, in a way, covers a broad and basic “how” – is absent the methodological process by which students are involved in these decisions that were asked. 

It would have been nice to receive an answer from SGA as to how they involve students and what exactly they do to contribute to this budget discussion.

And to which degree is SGA’s input adhered to. 


  1. When was the last time you had open office hours in order to address student concerns?


Mike Bedell Ph.D Dean College of Business and Technology:

The College of Business and Technology has had several “Coffee with the Dean” events during the fall semester and has two more scheduled for the spring.

Tom Philion Ph.D. Dean Goodwin College of Education:

Great idea–that is really easy to implement and I’ll set something up for March so that I can connect with students either virtually or in person.

Katrina Bell-Jordan, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences:

While there are no specific open office hours, students are welcome to visit the Dean’s Office any time during regular business hours, and are welcome to walk-in without an appointment. Depending on their issue or concern, students are directed to the best person to immediately assist them with the matter. Student concerns/issues are also reported at Dean’s Office weekly staff meetings, as follow up, and to determine if a student or student matter requires additional outreach, response or support.


Luz Analitis, Arts & Life Section Editor of the Independent:

The question posed here is an important one and seems pretty straight forward. What I found to be interesting however is the fact that the three answers given vary quite greatly. 

I felt like Dean Bedell’s response seemed the most passive. There is no confirmation of whether or not there even are open office hours for students, and giving the “Coffee with the Dean” as the only outlet for students to discuss their concerns with the dean does not fully sit right with me. Based on testimony I have heard from students who dropped by this event, it does not seem very successful because I have heard that not many students attend them. Whether this is due to lack of awareness of the event or students not being available at the time of the event, it does not appear to be particularly effective; so, perhaps this event needs to be rethought or another solution should be thought up and implemented.

Dean Philion’s response at least brings about some sort of call-to-action for improving upon open communication between students and deans. Although again, the answer is not completely clear and is a little vague. We are now at the end of March, and I am not sure if “something” was ever actually set up. It is also interesting to me that open office hours for students is something that is not already well established if it is a “great idea” and “really easy to implement”. 

Dean Bell-Jordan’s response in my opinion is the most clear and in-depth answer that demonstrates a genuine care for the question posed here. She acknowledges that there are no specific open office hours, which directly answers the question, and she gives alternative ways for students to come in and discuss concerns through either walk-ins or scheduling appointments. She even goes on to explain the process that goes into addressing student concerns, which is valuable information that I am glad she included.


  1. Student teaching is a fulltime job that requires students to put all their energy into that activity. Oftentimes it is impossible to take on a part-time job, this especially hard if you’re a single parent. How do you plan on financially supporting students in the college of education when they are in their last semester of student teaching? 


Tom Philion Ph.D. Dean Goodwin College of Education:

Great question! The new Fantastico Teacher Residency Program will enable some student teachers to be paid employees of CPS while they student teach. Also, the GCOE is working with our NEIU Foundation to increase donations and financial support for student teachers; look for more information about this more focused initiative in the near future. Finally, the state of IL is considering a variety of ideas this spring for better supporting and attracting student teachers. We are very involved in advocacy for most if not all of these ideas and hope to have news about new supports after the state budget process concludes in May or June of this year.


Jasmine Rodriguez, Managing Editor of the Independent:

Based on Dean Philion’s response, NEIU seems to offer support to their student teachers majoring in elementary, secondary education, special education and early childhood. But all their support is being offered in the future, and based on the administration we might never know when that might be. As the student rightfully points out, student teaching becomes a non-flexible commitment in NEIU because 1.) student teaching is an unpaid job, 2.) student teaching takes time, 16 weeks to exact, and 3.) student teaching never lists the required hours — nor the minimum or maximum expected workload — in the NEIU’s website. On top of this, student teaching is required in order to receive your Illinois Teaching License. Therefore, it can be financially difficult to manage student teaching, family obligations, and other responsibilities. While Dean Philion mentions the Fantastico Teacher Residency Program, as of now NEIU does not offer any teacher residency program, which would allow student teachers to combine apprenticeship and coursework while receiving a stipend salary during the program. In fact, the CPS Teacher Residency Program only has partnerships with National Louis University, Roosevelt University, Loyola University Chicago, and Relay Graduate School of Education (GSE). How can NEIU allow Goodwin College of Education (GCOE) to be behind so many other universities when our foundation was based on providing a degree in “teacher training”? In regards to Dean Philion’s response, we cannot wait for the future because we need current programs to help our student teachers now in the present.


  1. How is SGA representing student interests and concerns here at NEIU and holding administration accountable for students’ daily lived experiences? Specifically with regard to continuing issues at the Nest, admin responsiveness to students, and encouraging student involvement and dialogue with the SGA itself.


Edwin Medina:

SGA has members actively participating in different university committees such as Green Fee Committee, Affordable Books and Materials Committee, Diversity Council, University Advisory Committee, University Planning and Budgeting Committee, and many others as well, where we are able to bring the student perspective to the decision making table. I have monthly meetings with President Gibson, Provost Evans, and VP of Student Affairs Dr. Mena. During these meetings we discuss issues that students have and devise plans in order to resolve issues. Administration has always been open to meeting with SGA. They are also invited to attend our SGA senate meetings where other members can ask questions or bring up any concerns to the administration.


Dan Maurer, News Editor of the Independent:

According to Edwin Medina, the SGA president, members of SGA are active on a number of committees on campus, and he regularly meets with administrators regarding student issues. However, even though this question specifically mentions issues at The Nest, Medina says nothing about the student dorms. Medina also fails to mention any method by which students can get in touch with SGA beyond attending the SGA senate meetings. If the bi-weekly meetings are the only method for students to engage with SGA, it calls into question how SGA can represent NEIU’s student body with only limited input from their constituents. Is SGA’s only outreach to students an invitation to a senate meeting? How can students get in touch with SGA outside of its senate meetings?


  1. Would it be possible to post all scholarships on the Handshake platform so that all students can access them instead of having to search around campus?


Liesl Downey:

That’s a great idea as students are so familiar with Handshake. I’ll look into this with colleagues in Financial Aid and Career Development.


Leslie Lozada, Campus Life Editor of the Independent:

There is a lot that could be said from the last SGA meeting. From one of the questions that were released on Tuesday, March 28, a full month than was was promised from the SGA president, a question was asked by an anonymous student “Would it be possible to post all scholarships on the Handshake platform so that all students can access them instead of having to search around campus?” 

There was a short response from Liesl Downey, who is the V.P for Institutional Advancement as well as the executive director for the NEIU Foundation. Her answer being to the effect that she’s going to look into it.

In the past, Academic Works was used in order to put in scholarships from other departments at NEIU. One look at this site would show ended deadlines for scholarships, as well as those that have a limited amount of time for said deadlines. There is no way you can find said scholarships unless you are actively hunting for them. As an example, the English department not only uses their platform with the tv monitors that are being blasted across the greater NEIU campus, but also shares their scholarships and other important information through social media, being able to reach a greater number of students who are also on there.

Handshake might be a viable option for students and departments. On the site there are Work-study positions as well as Student Aide positions that are posted on there.That doesn’t negate the site that should be updated for students to go and actually apply for scholarships. As noted on their website for financial aid, 85% of students have some financial assistance throughout their time at NEIU. Having one site that is updated when scholarships are released or to just have them there, would be highly beneficial for the student population, as well as those who donate their money in order to start a scholarship fund for students.