OUR VIEW: the Daily News’ point-by-point analysis of Bold’s year in office

<p>Bold executive slate members pose for a photo in February 2020. (Left to right) Amanda Mustaklem, treasurer, Connor Sanburn, president, Jordyn Blythe, vice president and Gina Esposito, chief administrator. Bold was the Student Government Association executive slate during the 2020-21 school year. <strong>Jacob Musselman, DN File</strong></p>

Bold executive slate members pose for a photo in February 2020. (Left to right) Amanda Mustaklem, treasurer, Connor Sanburn, president, Jordyn Blythe, vice president and Gina Esposito, chief administrator. Bold was the Student Government Association executive slate during the 2020-21 school year. Jacob Musselman, DN File

Completed = Point has been fully achieved.

Somewhat completed = Progress has been made on the point, but the original goal was not entirely met.

Not completed = Point has not been achieved.

When campaigning to become the 2020-21 Student Government Association (SGA) executive slate, Bold promised to complete 11 platform points. Bold President Connor Sanburn said the slate dropped three of these points in his March 3 "State of the Senate" address.

Based on previous reporting and interviews with the slate members, the Daily News has reached its conclusions on the completion of Bold’s platform points:

Pursue intercultural dialogues course for students: Somewhat completed

What they said: Bold slate members wanted to pilot an intercultural dialogues class that focuses on anti-racism and unconscious biases. The class began in the Honors College in the fall 2020 semester and the Student Anti-racism and Intersectionality Advisory Council (SAIAC), of which Bold Vice President Jordyn Blythe is a member, offered feedback on the curriculum. Chief Administrator Gina Esposito said she sat on the university core curriculum (UCC) council that voted to incorporate this curriculum into an African American Studies course as an option for UCC humanities requirements.

What we found: Emily Rutter, associate professor of English and co-chair of the African American Studies program, previously told the Daily News the Honors College class “Understanding Race and Becoming an Anti-Racist” was supported by a university Creative Teaching grant she applied for in Febuary 2020, before the Bold slate was elected. Rutter said via email she did not know if Esposito served on the UCC committee or not. She said Blythe’s membership in SAIAC and SGA has been mutually beneficial for both organizations.

Push diversity training for all faculty: Somewhat completed

What they said: Blythe said slate members decided to focus on individual college needs for diversity training and inclusive excellence plans instead of mandating the same training university-wide. She said slate members facilitated discussions with students to ask what they think their colleges need to improve. The College of Health and College of Architecture and Planning, Blythe said, were the two colleges students said needed the most improvements in diversity and inclusivity.

“Dr. [Marsha] McGriff made it clear real early on that mandatory training was not really an option because they tried that before and it wasn’t as effective, so I thought about how we could pivot,” Blythe said. “This has really turned into getting more of a student perspective on these classrooms that students are in and what kind of everyday experiences they’re having when it comes to bias incidents.”

Blythe moderated a roundtable discussion March 22 for Ball State Women’s Week that focused on anti-racism on campus. From that discussion, she said, she had more ideas for what departments to focus on and how to make Ball State’s campus more inclusive, which Blythe said she will continue to discuss with McGriff, associate vice president for inclusive excellence.

What we found: McGriff said she couldn’t answer questions about the plans Bold has developed with individual colleges, but that slate members “have embodied inclusive excellence and have worked tirelessly to achieve an inclusive and welcoming campus community” in working closely with the Office of Inclusive Excellence.

Build Counseling Center partnership and host event: Completed

What they said: Sanburn said Bold’s original plan when running for office was to host an in-person event with the Counseling Center, but slate members wanted to wait until the spring 2021 semester to plan anything. Sanburn said the Counseling Center was still mostly hosting virtual events, and slate members met with Counseling Center staff to discuss potential topics for a webinar.

“They gave us a list of presentation types they already had ready to go, and we thought, ‘Just because of the COVID-19 pandemic … why don’t we talk about anxiety?’” he said. “In the presentation, there’s a lot of good information shared about recognizing anxiety and stress, and how to combat it.”

Sanburn said he hopes the next slate Strive will also reach out to the Counseling Center about potentially hosting monthly events for students. He said Bold was interested in building a monthly series with the Counseling Center before the pandemic, but realized it was more realistic to host one event in the spring semester.

What we found: SGA sponsored a Zoom Counseling Center event March 24 for combatting anxiety. Timothy Hess, associate director for Clinical Services and Counseling Center psychologist, said via email four people attended the event. Hess said slate members have talked with him and other staff since last year about hosting an event, and they decided on anxiety as the focus together because anxiety is the number one issue students report experiencing when coming to the Counseling Center.

Hess said the pre-developed program on anxiety was customized for the SGA event March 24. He said SGA members helped to organize and promote the event.

“Addressing the issue of mental health on campus takes the whole community working together across time,” Hess said. “We are happy for partnerships like this one with SGA that can take steps to support campus. We hope for further collaborations with SGA and other campus groups in the future.”

Increase accessibility to Safe Zone training: Completed

What they said: Sanburn said he worked with Safe Zone coordinator Kiara John for the whole school year on advancing this platform point. He said SGA wanted to focus on creating T-shirts and promotional items for Safe Zone training to expand awareness of the program and provide funds to sponsor additional future trainings.

“Safe Zone completely does their program based upon donations and money they get from promotional items they sell after trainings, so we thought, ‘Why not go ahead and donate some items for them to give away to students,” Sanburn said. 

Sanburn said the slate decided to design T-shirts, which were finalized at Outfitter Screen Printing and Embroidery in April 2021 to promote Trans Safe Zone trainings. 

What we found: John said Safe Zone staff and SGA worked together to create T-shirts with the Trans Safe Zone training logo, with the goal of promoting awareness of the trainings. She said Safe Zone increased the number of trainings it hosted this year compared to last academic year.

“SGA has been a very big advocate for Safe Zone and the LGBTQIA+ community this semester,” she said. “Connor [Sanburn], the 2020-2021 president, has particularly been very dedicated to attending meetings and discussing ways to be an ally.”

John said Bold slate members sponsored and were involved in multiple trainings during the spring 2021 semester and worked collaboratively with Safe Zone staff.

Expand metered parking app and grow awareness: Not completed

What they said: Sanburn said Bold decided to drop this platform point after talking with Ball State Parking Services Manager Nick Capozzoli in the fall 2020 semester about creating a metered parking app similar to the City of Muncie’s partnership with Passport Parking.

“[Capozzoli’s] argument was that the parking lots we have on campus, like the Atrium parking lot and McKinley lot, are true visitor lots,” Sanburn said. “As a student who sometimes drives to campus and parks there, I don’t find that to be true.”

Sanburn said Bold considered creating promotional materials for Parking Services reminding students of the operational hours of campus lots, but decided to spend time focusing on other platform points instead.

“The original point of this was to explore a metered parking app, and it just never formulated, so we were pretty disappointed with that, but at the same time we thought it’s been long enough to try to work on this, so we’re just going to completely lose [the point],” Sanburn said. “There’s still students on campus that want something like this, but Parking Services is just not interested in moving.”

What we found: Capozzoli previously told the Daily News Parking Services had no plan to expand the Passport Parking App beyond the City of Muncie into Ball State’s campus.

He said via email he spoke with Sanburn about developing this platform point, but that visitor lots are designed to encourage people not to park for long periods of time.

“Our pay station visitor lots are designed so they turnover as often as possible,” Capozzoli said. “A pay-by-phone app would allow someone to stay in a visitor space for longer periods of time, which would limit the amount of visitor parking available during a day.”

Explore heated bus stations: Not completed

What they said: Esposito said she first met with Jim Lowe, associate vice president for facilities and planning management, in June 2020 to begin researching this point. She said she hoped the point would be completed by the end of the spring 2021 semester, but found most bus stations on campus didn’t have nearby electrical sources that were powerful enough to support heaters.

Esposito said the most practical solution to this point she found was attaching a small heat lamp to light posts close to bus stops and scheduling them to a time system to not waste energy when not in use.

“Essentially, the best that I can do this year in terms of implementation is provide this proposal to Jim Lowe and hope that the next slate carries it on,” she said.

What we found: Lowe said via email he discussed and researched multiple different ideas for heated benches with Bold slate members. He said they have not found a feasible solution for heated bus stations and that the light post fixtures Esposito explained were not practical.

Continue Map App updates for individuals with disabilities: Not completed

What they said: Sanburn said the slate dropped this point after trying to facilitate conversations between Brandon Smith, director of the Digital Corps, and other faculty members of the team. He said Smith told him the Digital Corps was discussing if updates to the Map App should include updating its code or consolidating it with other apps.

Sanburn said the Bold slate picked up this initiative from the previous Elevate slate in part because Sanburn thought he could speed up the process of achieving this point, as he worked at the Digital Corps as a project manager through the end of the spring 2021 semester.

“[Smith] said he’s been talking with Marketing and Communications and the IT department to see if they have the funding to update the code and if they even want the code updated,” Sanburn said. “It had been at a standstill for the entire year. The cause is very important to us, but at the same time, it’s another dead end.”

Sanburn said once Bold realized Map App updates were in the hands of Marketing and Communications and IT staff, he trusted Smith to continue to communicate with those staff members and share any updates with slate members.

What we found: Smith said via email he and his team are still evaluating the future of the Map App, including potentially consolidating it with other campus apps. He said working with the Elevate and Bold SGA slates helped the Digital Corps realize the Map App was an important resource for students.

“Even though we didn’t accomplish the original platform point, I think it is fair to say that we simply needed to move the end goal,” Smith said. “We needed to know that SGA supported an updated Map App, and we needed to know what features should be in that app. Those conversations we’ve had with Bold will serve us very well in the future.”

Encourage reduced plastic bag use in dining facilities: Not completed

What they said: To achieve this point, Sanburn said Bold proposed Dining Services move plastic bags behind cash registers so students and customers would have to ask for bags.

“I was thinking about this from a psychological perspective and how we could change people’s behavior,” he said. “When students have to ask for a bag, they might think, ‘Shoot, I need to bring a reusable bag next time.’”

Sanburn said he was encouraged by SGA’s proposals and the feedback received from Dining Services. He said moving plastic bags behind cash registers might cause some disability access issues slate members hadn’t considered when they thought of this plan, which Karen Adkins, senior director of auxiliary services for dining, catering and events, brought to their attention.

“While we really weren’t able to necessarily reduce plastic bag use in our dining halls, it got the conversation going about bringing back reusable items next semester so we can do everything we can to stop single-use plastics,” he said. “If anything, this was a great point to set up the next slate for a successful partnership with Dining.”

Sanburn said the Strive slate was able to observe a meeting between Bold and Dining Services discussing this point, which he hopes will facilitate a better relationship between the two organizations beginning next school year.

What we found: Adkins said University Dining’s sustainability initiatives already included reducing plastic bag use before the Bold slate proposed this platform point. She said Dining Services is required to address sustainability opportunities comprehensively according to requirements from Business and Auxiliary Services.

By providing students and dining customers with reusable bags made of recycled materials, Adkins said, University Dining has reduced its plastic bag inventory and use by 25 percent each year since 2017.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Adkins said using drinking tumblers was restricted and the number of plastic bags and one-time use plastics increased.

“We remain passionate about Ball State University sustainability and are happy SGA shares in our passion and commitment,” she said. “We look forward to discussing our efforts in this area, both previous and current, as well as some exciting develops forthcoming.”

Adkins said she is encouraged the Strive slate has said it wants to limit SGA’s paper use and lead by example for other organizations, and that she looks forward to Dining Services partnering with future SGA slates.

Explore motion-sensored lighting: Not completed

What they said: Sanburn said he assumed older campus buildings didn’t have motion-sensored lighting, but realized with Bold Treasurer Amanda Mustaklem that the only lights not using motion sensors were outdoors, where lights are always on.

“We were trying to find specific places in specific buildings that maybe we could focus on,” Mustaklem said. “A lot of it was me walking through the buildings and just walking around and finding motion sensors.”

Sanburn said because slate members realized what they wanted to accomplish was already done, he dropped this point, in addition to the metered parking app and Map App updates platform points, in the March 3 senate meeting.

What we found: Lowe confirmed he spoke with Bold slate members about this point and that campus buildings have motion-sensored lighting already.

A previous Daily News article confirmed Sanburn dropped this platform point and two others in his “State of the Senate” address.

Pilot free menstrual hygiene products in select buildings: Somewhat completed

What they said: Esposito said she originally wanted menstrual products to be in each bathroom across campus, but needed to collect data for the program to expand and secure university funding. Currently, free menstrual products are offered in women’s restrooms in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center through machines programmed to accept quarters that were converted to free machines.

“We decided to narrow our focus on collecting data within a specific location and group that it can be used to be applied elsewhere,” Esposito said. “We felt that if we offered free menstrual products here, it would look really good for our university.”

Because SGA was not granted permission to install new dispensers, Esposito said, menstrual products are currently only available in women’s and gender neutral bathrooms.

According to its 2020-21 budget, SGA paid for magnets placed on the menstrual product machines with a QR code to a survey about the products. Esposito said — of the survey responses she’s received so far — most people wanted higher-quality products, which she hopes will be achieved next school year.

What we found: Director of the Student Center and Programs Maureen Baker said she talked with slate members for months leading up to the implementation of the program. She said if survey data shows sustained student interest in the program, the Student Center will continue offering free menstrual products.

A previous Daily News article confirmed free menstrual products are available in women’s restrooms in the Student Center. Tina Nguyen, president of the Strive slate, also said her slate wants to continue this initiative and expand it to other buildings as part of its “strive” focus.

Improve organization connections with SGA: Somewhat completed

What they said: Blythe said she searched BennyLink and sent out a survey to student organizations asking if they wanted to present to SGA or have a representative in the organizational caucus. She said some organizations were also interested in hosting an SGA member in one of their meetings.

“It’s for a senator to just be present so that those members of an organization can share their concerns, or desires or ideas for improving campus,” she said. “I definitely had bigger dreams for this point so that it would be a lot more interactive and engaging, but this was not quite the year for that. I’m still happy there was progress made on that front and engagement was still able to happen, even though it looked a little different.”

Blythe said SGA also hosted student organizations throughout the year in senate meetings and members of the Bold slate talked with new clubs about attending senate meetings as gallery members. Additionally, the organizational caucus gained one member each from the College Democrats and College Republicans.

What we found: Dylan Lewandowski, SGA president pro tempore under the Bold slate, said SGA’s organizational caucus did not grow much in the two years before Bold took office, but confirmed College Democrats and College Republicans each applied for and gained seats this year. He said he personally met with the chairs of both organizations in January 2021.

“I know that Bold was reaching out to a lot of different organizations and I went a whole semester letting them do what they wanted and I hadn’t received a single application,” Lewandowski said. “I felt that, although they might have been talking to people, it was more connecting to the organizations as individuals and less a partnership between [organizations and] SGA, as I would have liked it to be.”

Lewandowski said he thinks the Bold slate made progress toward improving organizational connections with SGA, but on more of an individual level rather than building partnerships.

“Broadly speaking about the organizational caucus, I would have liked to see more organizations join this year — those were the only two that did and I was kind of like the catalyst to make that happen,” he said. “I just think there could have been a little bit more of an outreach, maybe a little less personal and more as an organization.”

Grace McCormick contributed to this story.

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