Town Hall with President, Dr. Joyce F. Brown

On Tuesday, November 6th, the Student Association invited President Brown and the members of her Cabinet to our meeting for the first Town Hall of the semester. The gathering opened a forum for students to ask questions and openly speak to the FIT Administration.  As the President of the Student Association, I as well as the members of our board are asked to serve on several committees and working groups aimed at maintaining and improving FIT’s stellar reputation. The members of the board are privy to the advancement FIT has been making, however the everyday student may not. This was also an opportunity to bring the student body up to speed on what the FIT community has been working on. President Brown opened with an overview of the new FIT Strategic Plan “FIT Beyond 2020“, after which she welcomed questions from the over 100 student audience.

Below is a copy of President Brown’s responses

Christopher T. Wallace
President, 2014-2015

President Joyce F. Brown

Many times when a class does not have enough students enrolled, it is cancelled but no notification is sent to the students who signed up for the class. Is there a way to implement a system in which students who sign up for a class are emailed when it is cancelled?

Students are e-mailed when courses are cancelled. In many cases, this is done the Thursday or Friday before the first day of classes since we are hoping for the sections to fill. We wait this long because this gives the best chance for the classes to fill and we can avoid cancellation. However, we are looking at the process to determine if earlier cancellation might be feasible.

In addition, to make the notification process more efficient, the Registrar’s Office is automating the notification system so that an e-mail is sent to students immediately after a class is cancelled.  This has been a manual system and automating the system will preclude time lags and possible errors and ensure that students are notified immediately after cancellation.

How is FIT taking steps to serve commuters? For example, the computer lab is always full, and many of the students occupying the lab live in dorms and have a computer nearby, while commuters have no other options. Is a dedicated commuter computer lab something that could be created?

Labs are open 23 hours a day. There are also open classrooms (with computers) during exam times so there should be computers available for commuter students.  Kelly Brennan, the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success will ask commuter students to report issues to the Dean of Students (e-mail when there are no computers available to them, particularly those with specialized software so we can look into installing that software on additional computers. She will talk with the Student Association to see the best way to let the commuter students know the process for alerting us when there are no computers available to them.

We are looking at ways to provide additional computers through the master planning process. We are also looking into the feasibility of creating a lounge in the Business and Liberal Arts Center similar to the lounge in Dubinsky. The lounge will include a counter with computers.

FIT students who identify as part of the LGBTQ community have been stating that an LGBTQ Resource Center is a space that FIT could greatly benefit from, and a space that FIT needs now. Given this, and the fact that there have been LGBT hate crimes in the NYC area in recent years, do you feel that a physical space for an LGBTQ Resource Center should be implemented as part of the 1 year plan for point C, goal 3 of the Strategic Plan?

This is being addressed in two ways:  1) The Think Tank that has been established for Goal 3 of the Strategic Plan will be looking into this issue and

2) The College will look into the possibility of providing space for a Center as we develop our Master Plan and assess all of our space needs.

With FIT continuing to expand the number of majors it offers are we moving too far away from our core as a fashion school? Are there any changes being made to strengthen our Fashion School identity?

We are definitely not moving away from Fashion. Fashion is incorporated into all of the creative industries including our business and technology majors.  Fashion is in our DNA – as part of the strategic plan, we are looking at our brand and fashion is part of the core of who we are. We need to also keep the broader definition of fashion today in mind.  There is a movement towards “lifestyle” industries and fashion is a large part of that movement.

The cost of the food in the FIT Dining Hall is significantly more expensive than other dining establishments in the area that carry similar products. Also, FIT Dining Services do not accept EBT cards (Food Stamps) as a form of payment. Considering that many of the students who attend FIT receive financial aid; what is being done to make the food in the FIT Dining Hall more affordable to students?

Vice President Brabham explained at the Town Hall meeting that over the years we have worked closely with Aramark addressing students concerns about prices. We ask Aramark to do due diligence when establishing prices. She asked students to let us know if there was a particular item(s) that they believe are overpriced. Vice President Brennan will speak to the FIT Student Association about creating a mechanism for communicating their concerns about the price of specific items.

Aramark sends a consumer satisfaction survey every spring.  We will ask them to add a question about pricing so we can hear directly from the students on this issue

In addition, the Finance and Administration and Enrollment Management and Student Success divisions have worked together to meet with student groups — usually residence hall students – to hear their issues and concerns about the quality and variety of food, as well as the prices of food in the dining hall.  We would be happy to set up an opportunity for students to provide feedback on any items that they think are over-priced compared to other vendors in the area.

At one time, there was a student food service committee that met with Aramark to discuss food service concerns.  Perhaps we can reconstitute this committee.

Vice President Brabham has confirmed that dining halls that serve food for immediate consumption – as opposed to staples or groceries – are not eligible to accept food stamps.  Aramark does not accept food stamps at any of its college dining facilities across the country.

There currently isn’t a 24 hour workroom for design students- how can I, or “we” as the student association, help you to make this possible?” This is particularly important to design students who want the labs open 24 hours a day?

Vice President Brabham and Vice President Brennan would welcome the chance to meet with students to talk about alternatives.  As a reminder, a couple of years ago, FIT ensured that the dining hall was open 24 hours for students to work on projects.  We could do that again – or explore other alternatives.

Over the last few semesters at FIT, I have found myself reading online the Undergraduate Catalogue to get a description of courses. What are your thoughts on implementing a system in which students are able to leave peer-to-peer online reviews of classes, explaining what is actually being conducted in the class, before they register?

While we don’t think peer-to-peer evaluations are an option, the Vice President of Academic Affairs will work with the Deans and the academic departments to explore ways in which syllabi or other information about the courses could be more readily available.

Is FIT looking to become part of Open SUNY? If so what majors will be a part of it, and how will this affect our acceptance/ rejection rate as a school? Will we remain as competitive as before?

Open SUNY does not mean Open Admissions – Open SUNY refers to on-line programs being offered across SUNY campuses.  This will not affect standards or our acceptance or rejection rates.

Students in the School of Art and Design are subjected to taking 3-hour classes that only account for 1.5 credit hours. This results in many students taking over 10 classes per semester, which can sometimes be unbearable. Can the curriculum for these majors be reviewed to ensure that students are not taking extreme amounts of classes per semester?

We agree. Vice President Oliva described the curricular review process that is currently taking place and also stated that NASAD (the accrediting agency for art and design programs) has asked that we review this as well.  We understand that this can be burdensome for some students and we are examining this issue.  We hope to eliminate or at least reduce the number of courses that are 1.5 credit hours.

FIT does not fit the mold of any one type of institution, but it was rumored that we will be moving away from being a community college, is that true? And if so what changes are we making? And how will that effect the students in the future?

This is not true.  FIT is a community college and we have no plans to change our status. We are fortunate that we can offer bachelors and masters degrees, but will continue to do so while maintaining our community college status.

We all hear that FIT is a top school when it comes to connections to the industries we teach. We’d like to know if is there a connection between FIT and New York Fashion Week in a way that they can offer us more jobs in the events and not just volunteering as dressers and hosts — for example in the modeling and styling fields? How can we bring more opportunities for these two crucial aspects of the fashion industry to the students here at FIT, considering we have connections with many world renowned designers?

Volunteer experiences are a great way to start.  We work very hard with the industries we serve to provide volunteer opportunities.  Internships provide even better opportunities for entrées directly into the industries. We must also realize that Fashion Week is a big business and a very expensive undertaking for companies.  They use professional services to put their best foot forward. Therefore it is not really an opportunity for students other than behind the scenes. It is however, a great opportunity to be exposed to the production as a volunteer experience.