Welcome President Mahdavi! Here is our wish list

The University of La Verne community – along with the Campus Times –  is excited to get to know and begin working with our new 19th president. President Pardis Mahdavi, who started here on Aug. 15, is an Iranian American. She is the second woman and first woman of color to helm the school. Prior to starting at the University, Mahdavi was provost at the University of Montana. She has also served as a dean at Pomona College. 

She has a national profile and is widely published. She has championed feminism and human rights, diversity and public health. Her background is an excellent match for our University values.

We cannot wait to see the positive changes Mahdavi will implement on our campus.

To do our part in contributing to these positive changes, we have compiled a wish list to inform Mahdavi about some of the changes and improvements we believe are most important.

Fill open faculty and staff positions 

The University has experienced an exodus of full-time faculty and staff during the past few years, and has not prioritized replacing them – partly to save money. 

But understaffing has a direct effect on the quality of our education. While we love our adjunct professors, most of them do not have the time to work with us and mentor us the way full-time faculty do. At this point, more of our classes across the University are taught by adjuncts than by full-timers.  According to factual.com, which aggregates U.S. university data, 60 percent of ULV’s teaching staff are “part-time non-faculty or non-tenure track” instructors. This also means that many of our excellent instructors are underpaid for this most important job. 

For example, the sociology and anthropology department used to have around 10 full-time faculty members, but the University took several of the faculty members into leadership positions, while others have left – without replacements. Now that department has only four full-time faculty members.

Other departments have similar stories. 

Hiring adjuncts and full-time non-tenure track faculty is becoming common across universities. But hiring tenure-track faculty is better for the health of the University, as tenure brings job security; it also allows faculty to express even unpopular ideas without fear of reprisal, and this supports innovation and forward movement for the University.

We urge you, President Mahdavi, to make replacing full-time tenure track faculty positions as soon as possible a high priority. 

Restore academic department operating budgets 

Many of our traditional undergraduate programs are still operating under COVID-era austerity measures, for which operating budgets were cut, some dramatically. These cuts have meant that we are trying to work with out-of-date buggy hardware and software in computer labs, while other classrooms and pedagogical tools across campus are in dire need of an update. 

The music department, for example, longs for explicit budget allocations. They are trying to build back the infrastructure to return to the lively concert calendar they once had. 

With their budget not back to “normal,” the long-standing and beloved concert series “Sundays at the Morgan” cannot return. 

For the Campus Times and our communications department (we must also note) our printing budget was so seriously reduced, that we’re not sure how much longer we can continue to publish a print edition of the paper, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2019.

Other programs, likewise, cannot afford needed equipment, lab and facilities updates to keep up with current pedagogies. 

President Mahdavi, we hope your administration will restore all department operating budgets so that academic departments – and students – can continue to thrive and the University can continue to be competitive.

As president, fundraising for the University is huge, and can help address the financial struggles the school and individual departments are experiencing. 

Prioritize new majors that reflect the diversity of our students

The University of La Verne prides itself on its core values; among those are diversity and inclusivity. But the University’s curriculum and majors should better reflect the diversity of its student body. 

We are a Hispanic Serving Institution, with more than 50% of our students identifying as Hispanic or Latinx. Additionally more than 60% of our students identify as women. Yet we don’t have majors in Latinx or Latin American studies, or women’s or gender studies. 

We also don’t have majors in Black studies or Asian studies.

While it is possible to minor in some of these programs, that’s not the same. 

In recent years, the University has prioritized new majors based on their marketability. 

While this is great, we hope that the University under President Mahdavi will also consider these majors and programs that reflect and empower our diverse student body. 

President Mahdavi we urge you to take the following steps to address the lack of diverse majors in the catalog: Create a committee focused on adding majors that represent the students on campus. This committee can be made up of students, faculty, and staff from a variety of backgrounds that research and develop proposals for new majors. They can also focus on current majors and how they can be more inclusive. In order to give visibility to the few diverse minors that are offered, the University also has to host events that allow students to learn about what it has to offer. 

Many do not know about these minors unless they look at the catalog. We hope you take this into consideration.

Improve the safety and security of dorms 

Leaky ceilings and other leaks have caused mold, with the potential for mold-related health problems, for some students living in ULV dorms on campus. With an awareness of this situation, we hope all dorms will be thoroughly inspected for mold – whether or not students report it. 

The current system has students put in a work order to University Facilities whenever maintenance is needed in their dorm. However, not all students will take it upon themselves to submit a work order. 

Most of the calls regarding leaks, mold or other issues in the dorms go to the Abraham Campus Center, where they are then connected to facilities. This shows that a majority of students do not know who to contact when they need maintenance, let alone place a work order. 

This information needs to be more clear. 

Also, when facilities needs to enter a student’s dorm room, they should always let the students know in advance. Whether or not students are in their room, there should be no surprise invasions of their privacy – unless it’s an emergency. 

President Mahdavi, not all students speak up for themselves, but even those who don’t deserve a safe and secure living space free of leaks, mold and unexpected visitors. We hope that 

We hope that under your leadership, these dorm safety protocols will be improved.

Improve dining options 

The food options at The Spot should offer more variety for those with specific dietary needs or preferences. 

Vegans living and dining on campus, specifically, have limited options via Bon Appetit. 

While the options for vegetarians who consume dairy, are decent – if heavy on the butter and cheese – the vegan options are generally limited in terms of variety, and they are often not filling or nutritious enough. 

The few protein options that vegans have are beans, peanut butter and tofu and some of our vegan peers say the quality of the beans is sometimes questionable.

The most reliable vegan options are fruit, soup or salad – generally not enough real sustenance. The vegan option with the most calories available are potatoes, usually in the form of french fries – not healthy. The best thing that The Spot has to offer vegans in terms of filling and good level of macronutrients is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which gets old fast.

There should be more protein-based options that are filling and satisfying, such as Impossible meat varieties. Potatoes are great, but they should be baked or roasted more often than fried. 

We’d also like to see more roasted vegetables – a wide variety, which are a great healthy option for not only vegans, but everybody.

President Mahdavi, given what students pay for their meal plans, an upgrade to include more variety, particularly for vegans, is needed. 

Improve emergency communication 

The current emergency communication system in place sends messages to the University through the OMNILERT Emergency Notification system. Each emergency situation is evaluated, and based on the facts of each situation, an emergency notification will be sent via OMNILERT. Community members who sign up receive a text message and can receive a phone and email message as well. The system also has the ability to post messages on social media. 

However, during semesters in the past, safety announcements were sent too late for comfort. For example, last year a shooting threat that targeted the University with other universities, made on a Saturday, was not communicated to the La Verne community until Sunday evening. Students who were on campus were unaware of the threat, so unable to decide what they should do, if anything. 

The OMNILERT system also notifies us about COVID exposures in certain buildings, something Campus Safety is still closely monitoring. Though these too are often communicated later than is useful. 

Overall, President Mahdavi, we urge you to ask for a quicker and more consistent response in the University’s emergency communication system to allow students to plan and prepare in the event of an emergency. We appreciated that we were all informed in advance of and during Hurricane Hilary, which ended up being downgraded from an emergency to a tropical storm. We hope this sort of timely notification of emergencies will continue under your leadership. Whatever the emergency, please continue to prioritize such timely and frequent community alerts. 

Reach the Editorial Board with your comments and questions at ctimes@laverne.edu.

Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Campus Times Editorial Board.

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