On November 14, 2022, the Millsaps College Student Body Association (SBA) hosted a townhall meeting in Murrah Hall. Various panelists from the college were there to answer questions posed by the students of Millsaps.
Notably, panelists included President Robert Pearigen, Provost and Dean Keith Dunn, Director of food services Amy Abbott, and VP for Student Life Megan James. Other Vice Presidents and directors also served as panelists.
Some questions were submitted previous to the event via a QR code posted on the Millsaps Student Life Instagram page (@millsapsstudentlife). These questions were relayed to the panelists by SBA president Otis Kenner. Additionally, the floor was opened up to those in attendance to ask any other questions they had.
Many interesting topics were discussed at the meeting. Summaries for each issue follow:
- Tuition: President Pearigen announced that there will be no raise in tuition next year. This is the fourth year in a row that there will be no increase for room and board, though tuition has been raised recently.
- Saps Supplies: Keith Dunn defended the system of Saps Supplies, stating that there were dramatic performance problems before the platform was introduced. He said that the cost of buying books on one’s own hit those with the most financial needs the hardest. He insisted that the reason why students do not frequently get to keep their books is that the school is getting the “best product at the best price.”
- He addressed claims that there was a $1,000 increase in tuition for Saps Supplies by saying “That’s just not true.” Dunn insists that it is cheaper to use Saps Supplies than renting or buying one’s own books, which various students have investigated and claim is not accurate.
- Water Tower: The project meant to bring reliable, clean water to Millsaps campus is still planned, though the projected cost has raised from 4.1 million to 6.6 million. This has slowed the process, and so has getting approval from the city of Jackson. Vice President for Finance Whitney Emrich has assured students that this project does not source any of its funding from students’ tuition.
- Comprehensive Exams: When asked if comprehensive exams would be limited in the future, Dunn relayed that they would not be. Despite much “struggle” about how to respond to the original petition that pushed this effort, Dunn said that it was decided that “comprehensive exams are an integral part of our academic program,” and they would remain the same as they were before COVID.
- When further pressed by a senior who cited various hardships that his class has had to endure, Dunn replied, “No one expects that you had a normal college experience.” Yet, they still expect students to take normal exams. Dunn encouraged students to reach out to him for the full response to the petition to change comps.
- Franklin Hall Project: The college will not be renovating Franklin Hall into a residence hall anytime soon. They had architects give an estimate which exceeded their cost expectations. Millsaps has decided to put the money they would spend on that project into upkeeping and renovating current residence halls. For example, they are thinking about getting standardized furniture throughout the campus. This is additionally justified due to the fact that the college does not have enough students to fill new dorms.
- Enrollment and Retention: Millsaps is planning on increasing enrollment by building relationships with students and alumni. Additionally, the school is planning to increase merit awards by about $1,000 in each category for incoming students.
- Megan James stated that there would be a new committee for retention and completion, which would observe trends of reasons why people leave Millsaps.
- Humanities Courses: When asked if the college had been cutting back on humanities courses, Dunn stated that there were simply fewer classes due to less enrollment. Additionally, class numbers ebb and flow because of professors taking sabbaticals.
- Cafeteria: The Caf is still supplying disposable to-go boxes, contrary to rumors that had been circling during the weekend. There was a supply shortage of the classic styrofoam to-go boxes, so there were a few days when they were only offering reusable to-go boxes for $5. Students can still buy these boxes to cut down waste. Abbott apologized for the miscommunication.
- SBA is apparently funding bins around campus where students can return dishes that they took from the Cafeteria. Additionally, when asked about maintenance workers throwing away dishes, Emrich insisted, “We’ll be addressing that.”
- One student defended taking cups out of the Cafeteria. They noted that the disposable ones were smaller, Ecogrounds was closed at night, and vending machines didn’t use dining dollars. Panelists mentioned that they were possibly trying to get Millsaps IDs to work with the new vending machines they have around campus. Additionally, Abbott noted that students could simply bring their own cups. Though this has been discouraged in the past, it saves the Caf a lot of money because they keep having to buy more dishes.
- Campus Worker Wages: Conversations are allegedly being had about raising the minimum wage on campus. The wage is currently unlivable, and many students have been struggling because of it. Emrich commented on this by saying, “Those wages have been in place for a long time.”
- Mental Health on Campus: When asked about the poor mental health that Millsaps students have, Megan James noted that the college had observed this as well. However, she insisted that it was simply a society-wide issue and refused to acknowledge the heavy pressure that Millsaps students face.
- When asked what professors could do about this, Keith Dunn stated, “We don’t have any easy answers.” He suggested that the college could provide professors with training in proactive pedagogy to help, however. He noted that professors are educated in their own field rather than in the mental health of students. Still, as a professor himself, Dunn recognizes that students struggle due to academic pressures and seems open to programs to help.