Finlandia holds forum for student concerns

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Student Senate President Charles Patch reads out student concerns Tuesday to an audience of Finlandia University faculty, staff and students at its biannual student forum.

HANCOCK — Twice every year Finlandia University holds a forum to discuss student concerns.

The Tuesday event was held in the student cafeteria for easy student access. Attended by students, staff and faculty, the audience raised questions and proposed solutions.

For each question submitted, faculty or staff members knowledgeable on the topic came forward to share what they knew, or to propose changes.

The forum is intended to “bring more concerns from students to the forefront of faculty and staff’s mindset,” said Student Senate President Charles Patch. Finlandia would like to foster greater community and a family-like atmosphere, Patch said.

Among the topics raised were student organization, more cafeteria meal times, laundry machines, handicap accessibility, Wi-Fi quality, restricted diet accommodation and various other issues. Some issues were solved or had solutions in the works, while others were dead ends or yet to be explored.

Cafeteria availability increases were one topic of back-and-forth discussion and showed the forum in action.

One student proposed increased 8-11 p.m. cafeteria hours and breakfast for weekends. In response, Tim Nakkula, director of food services, explained that extended night hours and breakfast had been tried in previous years, but student participation was too low to justify the added expense.

“I hate to say it’s not worth it…but to be responsible to my budgeting, I have to have staff and a lot of the time the food would go bad,” Nakkula said.

Another student suggested opening a breakfast window with self-serve cereal for students. The window would be open when staff was already scheduled to work, so extra hours would be avoided and minimal extra work would be necessary.

Nakkula implied this solution was feasible and said he would be glad to revisit extending hours if there were enough interested students.

Nakkula also addressed a student request for allergy- or diet-compliant foods. He informed students that they should come to him with their individual situations, so he could tailor something appropriate.

Unfortunately, not all issues could be solved at the forum, such as handicap accessibility problems with university buildings.

“This is a very old school, (and considering) the cost to turn all steps and stairs into handicap accessible, it’s not possible,” said Logan Moore, campus community representative for the Student Senate. “Just for the building itself, there’s not enough room with the tight corners.”

However, things didn’t end there, as solutions for individual students can be worked out on a case-by-case basis, a recurring theme of the forum.

“When we have students that have mobility issues, either from a short-term injury or something long term, we do have accommodations in place so they have access to classrooms … We can make these things happen if someone comes forward and has a mobility or an accessibility issue,” said Dean of Students Erin Barnett.