This year, The Forum covered several stories on and off campus. These stories serve the student body, faculty, staff and surrounding community by informing them on all things Westminster and beyond. Here are a few of your favorite stories this year that gained the most attention.
Utah’s skiing causes traffic problems in canyons
With an increasing overall population and growing numbers of people looking to ski on “the greatest snow on earth,” Wasatch local and professional photographer Jay Dash said it’s no surprise that traffic has increased in the canyons.
Westminster College students are among those dealing with the growing amount of long waits in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way to or from popular ski areas.
Some students even tried to bribe the parking lot attendance when the lots are full. Others worked to beat the traffic, getting to the canyon around 5 a.m. to get ahead of the peak crowds.
Even though some measures have been taken, many say it is still not enough.
Administration responds to hate speech signs on campus
Members of a white nationalist group placed a banner reading “End immigration!” at the University of Utah’s block U on Saturday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
A similar group also recently posted signs on Westminster College’s campus that were red and white, saying “Not Stolen, Conquered” with a picture of the United States and “Better Dead than Red” with a picture of a hammer and sickle.
While some students said they were not phased by the incident, the administration at Westminster responded swiftly and, in an campus-wide email, encouraged students to remove any signs they found and report their location.
“We have had occurrences of posters on our campus in the past couple of years,” said Karnell McConnell-Black, dean of students and interim vice president of student affairs at Westminster. “Since developing our Bias Response protocol, we have been able to track trends and understand the concerns of our campus community.”
Faculty, staff benefits cut to balance budget
With fluctuating student enrollment numbers, Westminster College administration decided in March to make budget cuts to restore balance, according to President Beth Dobkin.
Budgets are continuously updated, but to balance Westminster’s budget for the next few years, faculty and staff are receiving benefit cuts from their retirement plans.
Harrison said faculty members can allot a specific amount of their pay to be put into their retirement plans and Westminster would match that amount. With the changes to the budget, the amount given to faculty members from the college is being cut by about 50%.
“Sometimes what happens is that institutions run into challenges where there’s a decrease in their revenue stream or there’s some significant increase in expenses,” said Cid Seidelman, distinguished professor of economics. “That then leads to [budget challenges].”
Salt Lake jumps toward Olympic skateboarding industry
Salt Lake City further strengthened its connection to the Olympics by hosting a world championship skateboarding event and making plans to build an Olympic-caliber skateboard park in March.
With skateboarding set to debut as an Olympic sport in the 2020 Tokyo games, Vans plans to contribute $200,000 towards the addition of a new “Olympic-caliber” skatepark for the World Championships, according to Rep. Michael McKell, R-Spanish Fork, who is pushing to make it all happen. McKell has also proposed that the Utah state legislature fund another $300,000 to complete the skatepark.
“If there’s negativity out there, I’m not seeing it,” McKell said. “I think there has been overwhelming support and I was amazed by the response from legislature. Once they realize how big this event actually is, folks are going to be really, really excited to see it come to the state of Utah.”
Westminster adapts to another year of 1300 East construction
Salt Lake Public Utilities completed its construction work on 1300 East that no one could miss by.
The final consturction was completed before the end of the Fall semester.
The original plan was to finish the portion of the road in front of Westminster College’s campus before the end of the previous academic year. But work continued through the summer, and has now been a part of Westminster’s move-in day for the second year in a row.
The Westminster community felt the impact of the construction in several different ways. Students dealt with late nights of construction noise, blocked campus entryways, increased traffic, easier walks from campus housing and more.
Westminster senior fights for women’s club soccer team
Westminster College does not have a women’s club soccer team despite support from students.
The men’s club soccer team is well-established, according to Westminster soccer players, but no resources are set aside for a women’s club team.
A club soccer team allows athletes who aren’t a part of an NCAA team to continue cultivating their skills and love for the sport with less pressure.
Katie Saad, a senior philosophy major and gender studies minor, played soccer throughout high school, but a blown-out knee meant she couldn’t try out for college soccer. Westminster’s indoor soccer club, which is open to all students, gave her the opportunity to stay involved in the sport but she still missed playing outside.
When Saad found that the school didn’t have a women’s outdoor club soccer team, she began a petition to start one herself.
Saad said that without the same resources given to the men’s club soccer team, attendance dwindled and the team “petered out.”
By the end of her junior year, Saad said the women’s club soccer team had stopped meeting. Saad was quick to emphasize that the men’s club team itself can’t be blamed for the issue, but Westminster’s administration can be.
Conversations to change diversity in theatre
The Westminster College theatre program has made many attempts to be more inclusive and involve diversity, but it could be better, according to Nina Vought, an associate professor in the theatre program.
The attempts that have been made have not been as well thought out or intentional as they need to be to actually create change, according to Melissa Salguero, a theatre performance major.
“Specifically because I think that when we look at theatre in general it is largely dominated by [cisgender heterosexual] straight white men who are middle class,” said Salguero. “So you have an extremely privileged group in an art form that, if we’re going to be honest, is supposed to be a platform for marginalized voices.”
Some students say diversity within the theatre department need to be improved for people of color, actors with disabilities and those in the LGBTQ+ community.
U students protest lack of action against domestic violence
University of Utah students walked out of class Oct. 21 to protest how their school handles sexual assault and harassment cases. The protest was held the day before the one year anniversary of Lauren McCluskey’s death — a student-athlete who was killed on campus by an ex-boyfriend.
Student organizers demanded change, saying the university hasn’t done enough to make the campus a safer place.
“I feel even less safe because I feel that the U is not truly listening to student concerns,” said Moira Gray, one of the student organizers.
Students said they want accountability and transparency from the administration as well as increased safety resources for students on campus. Organizers of the protest met with administration before the walkout to address these changes.
In a press release the university stated it’s already addressing some of the demands – but students argued it’s not enough and are calling for more action.
Students reflect on housing exemption policy
Westminster College eliminated exemption options for first- and second-year students by re-enforcing its two-year residential living policy at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.
Westminster’s policy on required two-year residential living began in 2011, according to Jess Sweitzer, the director of Residence Life. However, there was always a way for students to receive an exemption, whether that be a letter or a simple talk with Residence Life.
This year that all changed.
This criteria changed because Westminster’s administration conducted research and found that students who live on campus are more connected to the college and thrive academically, according to Sweitzer.
However, some students say there are still areas that need to be improved — like offering more scholarships or providing lower-cost living options to considering overlapping identities.
Administration announces 8.5% tuition increase — and students aren’t happy
Students can expect a hike in tuition with a $3,000 increase for the 2020-21 academic year, according to an announcement released from the Westminster College administration Thursday.
Tuition costs will rise from $34,984 to $37,960 a year, which is roughly an 8.5% increase for both current and incoming students.
“This increase reflects our need to establish a tuition price that comes closer to the actual cost of educating students,” said President Beth Dobkin, in an email sent to the student body.
Students responded immediately, speaking out on social media in response. A survey was sent out to students where 92.1% of 357 students reported they depend on scholarships to afford tuition. The survey didn’t specify whether these are merit-based or need-based scholarships.
Another 62.7% reported the possibility that the increase will “jeopardize their continued attendance.”
Students went a step further, organizing a silent protest outside a scheduled faculty meeting Dec. 6.
Students held signs protesting how the tuition increase will affect them, with many stating they aren’t sure if they can attend Westminster College next year.
“Honestly it depends on the financial aid I’m able to receive,” said Ryeleigh McCready, a junior majoring in theater. “I am basically a financial aid and scholarship student. I can’t take out student loans.”
Students like McCready say they love the school, which is why it feels like an attack to raise tuition so quickly.