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Interim president Elizabeth Preston fields questions on future Commencements and budget from the Senate



Dr. Elizabeth Preston, interim president of Westfield State University, met with the Student Government Association last Tuesday to answer questions and address concerns from the senators.

Preston said the administration is trying very hard to keep everyone informed on campus as well as getting feedback from students on campus.

Ryan Losco, president of the class of 2016, asked what location will be used for senior commencement in the future and if there would be a new committee to discuss the locations for future convocations.

Preston said commencement is at the MassMutual Center this year, but the Commencement Committee is being formed next month to discuss possible alternatives for future classes as well as the details for the 2015 Commencement.

The committee, Preston said, should have students on it to give the campus’ viewpoint on where Commencement should be.

Preston asked Losco what his opinion was on where commencement should be and he said that the MassMutual Center is better than the campus green because of the indoor environment and centralized location for the event.

Preston candidly replied that she used to strongly be in favor of having Commencement on the campus green.

She said, “I have to say having been through a couple of Commencements at MassMutual now, it really has some significant advantages, so I find myself really torn.”

Andrew Morin, executive secretary, asked the interim president what her future plans were after a permanent president was found for the university. Preston said she would ultimately and most likely go back to the faculty of the Communication Department when a new president is found.

Olivia Dumas, vice president of academic life, asked Preston if any definite administration changes will occur in the near future. She answered by saying that there were no definite changes being discussed. Preston did say that Andrew Bonacci, dean of undergraduate studies, may step down from his role as dean and return to the Music Department faculty because of his love of teaching.

Mathew Carlin, vice president of finance, asked what the status of the university’s budget was and if there was anything that could affect students negatively such as fee increases or reduction in a certain service for the students.

Preston gave, as she called it, a “slightly complicated answer.” She said this year the university’s budget is based on the presumption the university would have 4,675 paying day students.

“It doesn’t look like we will meet that number is the short version of that,” Preston said. She said the university reaches that number by the admission target that the admissions department sets and by assuming how many students will return.

Preston said that admissions issues will have little effect on the student bill, but there might be a small decrease in student resources.

Ariana Roche, representative-at-large, asked if the admission target had gone up or if the university is trying to keep it down for the low class sizes that university promises.

Preston said the target admissions goal for the class of 2016 was 1,400 but was 1,600 for the class of 2017. She went on to say that the classes of 2018 and 2019 will be is 1,500.

“I think on campus we all like this size and regardless of the campus size we are very committed to having small class sizes with good student relationships with faculty and staff,” Preston said.

Shannon Cullinane, vice president of programming, asked how Wilson Hall will deal with some of its classes going to the new science center and whether new sections of courses would be made or just copied to fill in the empty rooms.

Preston said the new science center will be primarily much nicer lab spaces.

“Frankly, if you spent any time on the fourth floor of Wilson you know everybody is just smashed in there and people have no space,” she said. Preston also said the Nursing Department does not have any real space in Wilson at the moment, but there will be brand new nursing simulation labs in the new building with a department full of office spaces for nursing.

She said that Wilson will keep most of the same classes. The goal, she said, of the new building is really to just allow better space for things the university is doing now.

Andrew Carr asked if Health Services is ready to handle a major campus wide virus like Ebola. Preston said a lot of the Commonwealth’s institutions are taking precautions on Ebola. Ebola is not the most problematic health risk right now for the school, she said. Preston said, “I would worry about the flu before I would worry about Ebola.”

After Preston was finished with her Q&A, Michael Basmajian, MASSPIRG coordinator, gave a quick speech to the SGA regarding voter registration. He said that the deadline to register to vote is Oct. 15. MASSPIRG’s goal at Westfield State is to get 500 students and 416 is what they have so far, he said. He said any student can volunteer in the mega blitz on the last two days before the fifteen to rally the last 100 students to vote.

Ariana Roche asked Basmajian if he had any plans to get students motivated to be informed on what they would be voting on. He replied saying the volunteers are mostly knowledgeable in handling any questions a new voter might have about what is on the ballot.

Joshua Clark, vice president of student Life, said MASSPIRG should make it very clear that when students register to vote here in Westfield, they have to do their jury duty in this area regardless of where they live because of where they registered to vote. “We do not want to have 400 students back east not knowing they have to come over here to do their jury duty,” Clark said.

Basmajian said he recommends students to register here because it is easier than requesting a ballot from home. We also make sure students understand the option to register from their home address as well.

Rebecca DiVico, president of the SGA, motioned to approve Barbara Hand, Drew Dalesandro, and Chaitali Brahmbhatt as SGA advisors for the 2014/ 2015 academic year, which passed unanimously.

The madam president also motioned to appoint Chelsea Nelson as Apartment Complex president for the 2014/2015 academic year, which passed unanimously. She lastly announced that Homecoming will be on Oct. 25.

The next meeting of the Student Government Association will be Oct. 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the Peter D. Mazza Student Government Room in the garden level of Ely by Dunkin’ Donuts.

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