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SGA president delivers second annual State of the Campus

By Kylie Coffey
On February 8, 2013

Student Trustee Stone Koury introduced Student Government Association President Stephanie Close as someone who has "worked tirelessly" over the past year.

Close, a senior from Peabody, MA, delivered the second annual State of the Campus Address Tuesday, February 5th at 4:00pm on the Dever Stage. The State of the Campus address was instated by former SGA president Lou Cimaglia and the Executive Council last year in an effort to connect SGA with the Westfield State community.

Close began her speech from "a student's point of view," admiring all of the accomplishments Westfield has made in the last year. Taking a sentence from the mission statement, Close assured students that "Westfield's actions are meeting our mission."

She then began to talk about all the renovations and expansions made across campus ‑ all of which wouldn't be possible without student opinion.

"I have come to realize something special about Westfield," she said. "When students speak on this campus, they are heard and they are recognized."

In chronological order, she named off all of the projects that have been completed starting with the expansion of the Dining Commons in the fall of 2011, the newly renovated Wellness Center that was completed last fall, and the new campus center that was completed right before the beginning of spring semester.

The theme throughout Close's speech seemed to be about student voice. Because without the opinions of the students, she assured, none of these projects would have become reality.

For example, one of the biggest expansion projects currently on campus is the building of the new residence hall, University Hall. In the original plan, University Hall was supposed to sit right on The Green, in front of Lammers Hall. But because of students coming forward and expressing their concerns, University Hall is now being constructed in between Ely and Lammers.

Close then addressed one of the biggest changes to be enforced on the Westfield State campus: the decision to go tobacco-free. When the campus went tobacco-free at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, students, faculty and staff were forced to enjoy their cigarettes in the only place that allowed them to do so, on the sidewalk on Western Avenue.

After listening to concerns from members of the community, President Dobelle came up with a solution. Now, two gazebos have been built on campus so that students who choose to smoke can do so without having to walk out to Western Ave. The two gazebos are located in the corner of the commuter parking lot near New Hall and behind the campus center near the Dickinson parking lot.

Close spoke about the addition of the new Momba vending machines on campus. The Momba machines provide students with basic necessities for college life. In the machines there are several items including undershirts, Fabreeze, tampons, etc.  There are three machines on campus, in Davis, Dickinson, and Scanlon. All machines are in easily accessible locations, where a student does not need to live in that specific residence hall.

Westfield is the second education institution to install the Momba machines on their campuses. The first institution was Harvard University. 10% of all proceeds from the Momba machines are donated back to Westfield's financial aid program. For more on the Momba machines, see the article on page 4.

Close then brought up a new program that was founded by Alumni Relations' Kathi Bradford and Nanci Salvidio. The Lifetime Owls program is an opt-in, one-time fee placed on your student bill. The programs offer many perks including discounts on j-terms, scholarship drawing, special alumni events and more.

Just like in Cimaglia's address last year, Close addressed a common annoyance voiced by students. The situation on parking has improved since last year, she stressed. There are now two shuttles, PVTA's Owl Express that runs until 3pm Monday through Friday, and a continuous shuttle to and from South Lot.

"Although this is not an ideal situation, we have it a lot better than most other campuses," Close said.

She then spoke about the great opportunities that Westfield offers its students. Students have the opportunity to travel to 40 different countries for study abroad and there are many short-term travel courses available. Students can also take advantage of the Disney College Program and the Washington Center, two programs that are very popular among students.

SGA has allocated $20,000 for a supplemental travel fund, Close said. This money will go to students who wish to travel to academic conferences throughout the year. The funds for the remainder of this year have all been allocated.  SGA was able to help 116 students attend academic conferences of their choosing.

Close recognized that although SGA has accomplished a lot this year, there are still challenges that need to be met. The biggest challenge Westfield faces as a community is diversity, she said.

"We pride ourselves with having a community feel here at Westfield and I strongly agree with that," she said. "But when I have students who don't always feel welcome, or students who are afraid of what might happen if they start a religious group, I rethink our community."

Close ended her speech with a statement she found when traveling on a service-learning course to San Francisco. The statement borrowed from the Glide Memorial Church read: "The Ground We Stand On: Radically Inclusive, Truth Telling, Loving and Hopeful, For the People, Celebration."

Of that, Close said, "I believe this is the ground Westfield stands on. But we need everyone to make it a reality."

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