(Posted February 26, 2016)

From left, Dan Cook-Huffman, interim dean of students, and President Jim Troha listen to a student's question. Photo by Devon Mikal Weaver
From left, Dan Cook-Huffman, interim dean of students, and President Jim Troha listen to a student's question. Photo by Devon Mikal Weaver

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, President Troha, accompanied by several members of the administration, hosted another round of Fireside Chats. Located in Lesher and Nathan lounges, the Fireside Chats were an opportunity for students to voice their opinions directly to the people in charge. "The great thing about these evenings is there is no agenda," said Troha. "The agenda is yours."

For an hour, administrators responded to concerns, comments, and grievances voiced by the attending students. Several students raised the fact that the flag of Vietnam had not been flying with the others during the last open-house weekend. This happened to have been a simple mistake and nothing else. "It's the practice to put out each flag for the students that are represented," said interim dean of students Daniel Cook-Hoffman. The school does indeed have a Vietnamese flag and will raise it with the rest at the next opportunity.

Another popular matter was that of funding for events on campus. Several students suggested that the school have one big event, a concert by a popular artist, for instance, instead of several small events throughout the year. "College is already expensive enough," replied Troha. With a budget of about $80,000 set aside for student activities, the administration has decided that it would be more beneficial to plan a variety of events that appeal to different interests as opposed to one large event that could only appeal to a relatively small portion of the campus community.

"All I can say to you is that there is a lot coming," hinted Troha. To name a couple of these new plans, the school will be "bringing students to the Washington, D.C., area and State College, too," said Troha.

The most frequently brought up matter was Baker Refectory. The general attitude among students is one of dissatisfaction. "It seems like common sense that a college would be able have dining accommodations for as many students as necessary," said freshman Austin Meyer when Vice President for finance and information Rob Yelnosky mentioned that "more than one-third of the student body comes through [Baker Refectory] between 12:00 and 1:00. We've looked at making a deck out the back of Ellis," he offered. "That's what we're trying to figure out -- how to flex those possibilities."

Student demand for direct interaction with figures of authority has been the cause for the continuation of the Fireside Chats, which started last semester in the midst of a tense campus environment. More are planned for later on in the semester, although none of the administration could comment on when. Students left the lounges seeming satisfied with the responses that they had been given and Provost Bowen thanks those in attendance for their "provocative points."

Seth Nichols

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Contact Genna Welsh Kasun at kasung@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3138 for more information.