Distress at the Nest: Issues Noted at Nest’s Town Hall

Members of Nest management, SGA, and NEIU administration, from left to right. Nest General Manager Josiyah Martin, Dean of Students Dr. Terry Mena, SGA President EJ Schumacher, SLD Director Veronica Rodriguez
Members of Nest management, SGA, and NEIU administration, from left to right. Nest General Manager Josiyah Martin, Dean of Students Dr. Terry Mena, SGA President EJ Schumacher, SLD Director Veronica Rodriguez
Dan Maurer
NEIU students during the town hall.

Update: This article was updated with average student age data on 4/7/2024

Yes, There Will Be Changes.

— Dr. Terry Mena

Bernard J. Brommel Hall (BBH) hosted the Nest Town Hall, which was to inform Nest residents of several Nest-related policies that have caused concern among students.

 The meeting was overseen by Dr. Terry Mena, Vice President and Dean of Students for Student Affairs since 2020, and Josiyah Martin, the General Manager of the Nest since October  2023. Most of the room was filled with several student Nest residents, which included former Resident Assistants (RAs), Student Government Association (SGA) members and Northeastern Programing Board (NPB) members. 

Dr. Terry Mena stated that the Nest guest policy is not new. The guest policy, as noted in a previous Independent article, referred to the limitations to just two overnight stays with enforced curfew times on other days. “That policy has been the same since I’ve been here as the vice president,” Mena said.

 

NEIU students during the town hall. (Dan Maurer)
Nest Student Resident Concerns

“I feel like I’m living at my mom’s house,” said Alasia Williams, one of the students who spoke out against the Nest guest policy. Williams has been a Nest resident for several years, since she graduated from high school and was accepted into NEIU.

“There’s no way, in [the] four years I’ve been here, I’m just now being charged $150, which is outrageous, by the way, for signing someone out.” Williams claimed that she was not told or taught how to sign someone out, “If that was the case, those rules should have been enforced.”

“I want to be heard, I want to see change,” Williams said.

Dr. Terry Mena responded, “Yes, there will be change.”

Several other students shared their concerns on Nest-related issues ranging from the guest policy to issues of the new security guards at the front desk, as well as one notable issue of a male RA opening an all-female dorm room in the middle of the night without consent. The resident said she had been heard at the moment, but that she had not been followed up with afterwards.

Maintenance issues were also raised, such as one elevator, which was reported to the Independent, only goes up to the fifth floor. Both of the elevators in the Nest were out of order on several occasions, forcing residents to walk up several flights of stairs.

Trying to reach out to Nest staff was also noted as an issue. One person pointed out that the fourth floor had five RAs in one month. While General Manager Martin said that the first floor office hours are from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., there are still other staff still present otherwise.

Several floor GroupMe chats were also insufficient for communication, many residents said.



SGA Advocates for Students

“Where are the RAs?” Alfredo Aguilar said, after hearing several comments from Nest residents who have mentioned issues with RA staff, pointing out that no RAs were present at the Town Hall. Aguilar had worked as a Nest RA for three years prior to his current campus roles as the NPB’s president, and SGA senator.

Aguilar and several other SGA members were present as several members lived in the dorms.

Ken Hester, a member of SGA, brought up concerns about letting people leave late at night due to the unreliability of CTA trains and buses, as well as the cost of Ubers to those who will have to take them late. These thoughts were also echoed by SGA Senator Joanne Fanfan, bringing up the issue of international students’ guests who do not know the city well enough to travel at night.

SGA member PR/Communications Director Melissa Delgado, after hearing several of the complaints, said Dr. Mena’s answers were “like responses I get from my managers, nothing gets done.”

Delgado, who lives off-campus, added, “I would rather drive forty-five minutes than live here.”

One comment towards the end drew gasps from nearly all present. Asked by one student if staff who stayed overnight at the Nest were subject to the same guest policies, Dr. Mena said, ”No, because they’re adults.” 

“You just smacked everybody in the student body’s face,” SGA Senator Ken Hester said of Dr. Mena’s comment in a statement to the Independent.

“These students are paying your salary.” Hester went on, “These students are the reason you’re here. You wouldn’t have a job if the students didn’t exist. So how is it that you’re going to enjoy a right that you try and constrain their rights with no regard to people who live in other states, or people who have family that are in other countries that come over here?”

According to NEIU’s Spring 2024 Enrollment Fact Sheet, the average age of NEIU students is 28.7 years old. It was established at the beginning of the meeting, through a raise of hand, that the majority of students in attendance were beyond their freshman year.

SGA Senator Ken Hester (center)
Security Risks

A number of students were questioning their security at the Nest. One resident reported being in an all-female unit. Being the only one up in the middle of the night, a male RA had used his master key to get into the all-female unit. The student had told the room that she doesn’t feel safe at the Nest, wondering what could have happened if she had been asleep like the rest of her suitemates.

SGA senator member, Alex Doglin, spoke on behalf of a student who didn’t feel comfortable being at the meeting. The student is gender non-conforming and had been put in an all-male room when they marked themselves to be put into a queer dorm on their application. They were put in a line of danger, as they were harassed by their roommates with the Nest moving at a snail’s pace to get them to a new dorm. They were just recently put into a new dorm after trying to get out since last semester.



SGA Senator Ken Hester (center) (Dan Maurer)
How We Got Here

NEIU sent an email on Feb. 8, 2024, to Nest residents reminding them of a guest policy that had not been published or enforced for some time, and that had differed from the policy in the Nest lease agreement. At that time, a Change.org petition began circulating, with the goal of changing the guest policy.

The Independent spoke with Nahili Harun, the NEIU student who originally started the Change.org petition. Harun said she reached out to Nest management and Dr. Mena. 

According to Harun, Mena responded, offering to meet with her and Nest management one-on-one. However, Harun declined that offer, saying she told Mena that Nest residences needed a town hall meeting to discuss the issue.

“I felt like I wasn’t going to be taken seriously. And they were just gonna look at me as a typical angry Black girl,” Harun told the Independent. “I’m just one voice. And I don’t know if that’s loud enough for them…. So I felt like we all collectively shared our concerns about these rules. Maybe they’ll do something else or make [a] change.”

 

While the bulk of the complaints were aimed towards Mena and Martin, there were a handful of NEIU staff — Quintiliano Rios Perez, the Interim Assistant Dean of Students for Undocumented Student Resources and Student Care, Paola Vargas, Interim Associate Dean of Students, James Chancellor, the Area Manager for American Campus Communities since August 2023, NEIU’s Chief of Campus Police, Joseph Przybyla and Beni Ortiz, Interim Vice President of Finance and Administration —and one from American Campus Communities in attendance that were pointed out at the start of the Nest Town Hall by Dr. Mena.

 

General Manager Martin commented on the reason for the Nest Town Hall towards the beginning of the meeting. “And I think that you know, the important thing about changing and this process is being able to hear the feedback, which is why we’re here today to… create an environment that everyone wants to be safe in and be in school…”



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    GeeApr 24, 2024 at 4:39 pm

    Wow. Not Dr Mena calling adults children. Even if all the residents at the Nest were first years, if they are 18 they are legally adults. Good for whoever said WE pay his salary. The students at the Nest should write their alder & maybe even talk to Chicago press! They pay too much to not be comfortable, happy, and safe.

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