- Chatters to remain closed after fire
| Audrey Dighans editor in chief |
The fire at Chatters on July 22 has left damage to the building that will keep the restaurant out of business for an unspecified amount of time.
Ahmad Enayati, Chatters’ owner, said the fire started with a new fryer in the kitchen.
“We weren’t even using it yet. We had put oil in it and they turned it on to just test and make sure it would come on and fire up,” Enayati said. “Unfortunately, when they turned them off, they turned one off, but the other one they didn’t turn off and they left it at 255 and that one caught on fire.”
Despite not turning one fryer off, Enayati says that there was still a malfunction with the fryer.
“There is a switch on it called the High/Low Limit that is supposed to turn it off if it gets too hot,” he said, “and from what the initial investigation stated … it malfunctioned and that caused the fire.”
Chatters employed a total of 60 people, 40 of whom are students at PSU. As a result of the sudden loss, Miller’s Professional Photography agreed to take many of the students and employ them for seasonal positions.
Because Miller’s was able and willing to hire the Chatters employees, Enayati says that he will wait at least until the busy season at Miller’s is over to reopen the restaurant.
“The ideal situation is to reopen in January,” he said. “That way, the kids that went to Miller’s will have an opportunity to come back to Chatters and we don’t disturb Miller’s peak season by demanding to choose between us or them, which is not fair. We want it to be good for everyone.”
Koy Kutz, junior in electrical engineering and Chatters employee, says that he enjoyed working at Chatters.
“There was such a good group of people there,” Kutz said. “We always called it our Chatters family.”
Not only did the fire and closing have an impact on the students who worked at Chatters, but also the students who enjoyed eating there.
Sierra Schupback, sophomore in biology, says that it was one of her favorite places to eat.
“I went to Chatters for my graduation and it’s a good restaurant. I really like the wings there,” Schupback said.
Deanna Bingham, sophomore in biology, says that she was disappointed that Chatters will not reopen for a while.
“I think it’s just important that there are local businesses,” she said, “because a lot of the businesses support Pitt State and it helps the community.”
- It’s done! Overman Student Center open
| Audrey Dighans editor in chief |
Returning faculty, students and staff may feel they have entered an entirely new building this fall when they take their first steps into Overman Student Center.
After a year of construction, detours, dust, noise and mud, Overman is open and back in business. The 68,000 square foot building is sure to awe all of Pitt State this year.
From the new additions to the U-Club, to the spacious lounges, to fully-functioning and furnished meeting rooms and, of course, the 600-person-capacity ballroom.
“Make yourself at home, it’s your building,” said Jeff Steinmiller, director of Overman Student Center.
The building’s new furniture was delivered on Monday, July 20. Construction crews are now finishing up some final touches and checking all systems to ensure the building is fully functional when the majority of students and staff return to The Jungle in August.
“It’s great to be working here, feels like a whole new building,” said Trevor Clarke, junior in communication, said.
Clarke is a student employee at the Information Desk and has watched Overman’s transformation all year long.
“The building is so much more useful now,” he said. “Students finally have access to all the features again; the movie theatre, the U-club, the lounge space, the meeting rooms, the only problem with the building is there were so many chairs we had to unload yesterday. It’s impossible to not find a place to sit down now.”
Overman also increased its number of student employees, adding four more positions. There will now be 25 students, not including Sodexo student employees, working in Overman this year.
In the older section of the building, some of the most notable changes are in the Jungle Lounge. The old offices for Gorillas In Your Midst adviser J.T. Knoll and Greek Life advisor Meagan Smejdir, among others, have been removed.
This provides not just space for studying, but natural light from windows. The carpet has also been redone and furniture updated for a much more modern, relaxing area to spend time between classes or meeting up with friends.
The upstairs, of course, doesn’t even resemble what used to be there. What once was the Crimson & Gold Ballroom is now Sunflower A and B Rooms, the Prairie Room, the Meadowlark Conference Block and Kanas One, Two, Three and Four meeting rooms.
Some of Overman’s old furniture has been re-used in certain meeting rooms, while other items have been fitted out with new office chairs and meeting desks.
Each meeting room also features a flat screen TV for viewing presentations and other updates, while electronic screens outside provide the room’s name and schedule of activities for the day, all of which can be updated from the Information Desk on the main level.
In the added 34,000 square feet of Overman, the new ballroom is open for exploration as well.
The ballroom is capable of holding 600 people and can be split into three sections, each capable of holding 200 persons. The space is carpeted to help reduce noise and is full of light from the south side of the building’s wall of windows.
Every level of Overman has added lounge space and furniture to help create a “living room” aesthetic on campus.
Downstairs, the U-Club is the only part of the building not yet ready for the start of the semester. Though it has been repainted to maintain the feel of Overman and the concrete floors have been polished, there is still much to do before students return and begin ordering bagels from Einstein Bros and tacos from Wholly Habaneros, U-Clubs two dining facilities.
For the most part, a few touch ups are still needed to be done inside Overman, but the building is open for anyone to come through and see the year-long renovation results.
- Let the games begin
| Kelsea Renz copy editor |
Pittsburg will soon be home to a destination casino after the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission accepted on Thursday, July 2, the Kansas Crossing casino proposal recommended by the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board (KLGFRB).
“Now that the state has made its decision, the city of Pittsburg will work closely with the Kansas Crossing representatives to develop the project,” said Blake Benson, Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce president. “Pittsburg Planning and Zoning has already begun considering site plans for the facility and that will continue over the next several weeks.”
Kansas Crossing, located at the intersection of highways 69 and 400, was one of the final three location proposals that went to the KLGFRB for review and voting on June 23 and the development should take about one year to complete. By giving Kansas Crossing the recommendation, the KLGFRB said that it best supports the economy, tourism and the people of Kansas.
“Kansas Crossing will have a significant impact on our local economy, particularly in the area of tourism and travel,” Benson said. “Crawford County routinely competes for large events, conferences and meetings, but often loses out to communities that have recreational activities like gaming.
“Adding gaming to our community’s portfolio will make us more competitive in terms of group and business travel.”
Students say they anticipate a casino bringing more jobs above everything else.
“A casino will bring more financial support, more jobs and more people to our town,” said Kelly Wilkinson, senior in psychology. “More gambling and possible drinking but, in a positive aspect, more jobs for students.”
Along with the possibility of the casino helping Pittsburg, though, there is always a chance for it to hurt the city.
“We do have a high drug rate here and I worry about that increasing or crime increasing,” said Andrea Kratochuil, graduate student in clinical psychology. “More students will gamble since it will be closer than Downstream,” a casino and hotel complex located in Oklahoma on the Kansas state line.
However, not everyone was happy about the KRGC accepting the recommendation.
Several Cherokee County commissioners appealed the recommendation, stating that the Kansas Crossing proposal did not best follow the criteria of the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act. The commissioners were attempting to get the KRGC to reject the recommendation and restart the proposal process.
Some people say that although they think the casino will be good for Pittsburg, it may not be so good for students at Pitt State.
“More people coming in for the casino means more money flowing through the town,” said Michael Angel, senior in psychology. “There’ll be a little bit more for (students) to do around here, I suppose, but it could put a drain on their finances if they aren’t responsible.”
- Modest tuition increase still riles some students
| Kelsea Renz copy editor |
Tuition is expected to increase by as much as 3.6 percent for the 2015-2016 school year at the six Kansas Regents universities. The Kansas Board of Regents did, however, manage to enforce a cap at 3.6 percent including fees.
For Pitt State, this means that tuition and fees for a full-time in-state students will be $3,134 per semester, a $109 increase from the 2014-2015 school year.
“While the tuition increase was less than increases we’ve seen in the most recent past, I recognize it still puts additional financial pressures on our students and their families,” said Steve Scott, university president.
Though the increase is relatively small compared to years past, several students still say the extra costs are an additional financial strain.
“College is already expensive and a majority of students are coming out of school in crippling debt,” said Kelly Wilkinson, senior in psychology. “Why make it worse?”
Some students have taken on new jobs to be able to afford their next semester of school.
“Luckily, I landed a grad assistantship,” said Andrea Kratochuil, graduate student in clinical psychology, “but if I hadn’t I would have to take out more loans. It is honestly terrible.”
Some students say they think the tuition increase will not hurt Pitt State as much as it will the other Regents universities.
“I don’t think Pitt State will see as much of a negative effect as higher-priced schools since Pitt State is the cheapest college in Kansas,” said Mary Owens, senior in psychology. “It might even see an increase (in enrollment).”
Others are not so sure.
“Pitt State prides itself on affordable tuition,” Kratochuil said. “And it’s just a downhill slide from here on out.”
The precarious financial situation extends to the university, as well, as administrators work to maintain the standards of low tuition while combating statewide budget cuts.
“As we work to ensure our students have a high-quality experience, I continue to be frustrated with the lack of state support for our efforts,” Scott said. “I’m sure our faculty, staff and students share this frustration.”
Despite the setbacks, Scott says he remains optimistic, though cautious.
“We anticipate having another outstanding year at Pittsburg State,” he said, “but it’s also clear we’ll have to carefully manage our financial situation in order to accommodate the situation the state has created with its finances.
“What we all need is more stable funding for the university and a state financial picture that is more solid and predictable.”
- Students praise decision on same-sex marriage
| Gretchen Burns reporter |
Mary Owens was one of many who celebrated the decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriages across the country. The decision by the Supreme Court was both praised and criticized.
Owens had to travel to Iowa, the state closest to Kansas that allowed same-sex marriage, last October to marry her spouse.
“We had to find the nearest place that would marry us, which happened to be Iowa, because we lived in Kansas City, so it would only be like three hours,” said Owens, alumna of PSU. “Then we decided to get married at the zoo because we both love the zoo and it wasn’t church-related. We had to find a venue that would accept a gay couple and then an officiate that would do same-sex weddings.”
Owens said that it wasn’t as difficult for her and her partner to find these because Iowa had been allowing same-sex marriages for a while, but it was harder to find someone who would officiate.
“It would have been a lot easier if we could have done it in Kansas,” Owens said. “We had to have our wedding and our reception as separate events on separate days because we didn’t feel like we should ask other people to drive to Iowa to see us get married. It seems stupid that we had to have them as two separate dates.”
Owens says she is ecstatic that Kansas is now able to grant same-sex marriages because it expands gays’ constitutional rights.
“Since Kansas didn’t recognize our marriage, if we had happened to need a divorce, we couldn’t get one because you don’t need a divorce if you’re not married,” Owens said. “I’m really excited that marriages are recognized as legitimate marriages. If a couple needs a divorce, you can get one. You can file your taxes together and do couple-y things.”
The decision was a 5-4 decision in favor of the legalization and was celebrated across the country. According to the Washington Post, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the decision was based on the fundamental right to marry and the equality that must be afforded gay Americans.
“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” said Kennedy in his statement. “… It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”
Even President Barack Obama issued a statement from the White House Rose Garden praising the decision.
“This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts,” he said in the statement. “When all Americans are truly treated as equal, we are more free.”
Justice John Roberts was one of the four Supreme Court justices who voted against the decision.
“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal,” he said in a statement about the ruling. “Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
This was the first time that Roberts marked his disagreement with a decision by reading part of his dissent from the bench.
Some state officials also disagree with the ruling, saying they feel undermined by the Supreme Court.
“Activist courts should not overrule the people of this state who have clearly supported the Kansas Constitution’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman,” said Sam Brownback, Kansas governor, in a press release. “We will review the ruling carefully to understand its effects on the people of Kansas.”
Some officials, however, say they are working to support the decision as best they can.
“Today’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is a major victory for equality and an important step toward a fairer and more just society for all Americans. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love,” said Jay Nixon, Missouri governor, in a press release. “In the coming days, I will be taking all necessary and appropriate actions to ensure this decision is implemented throughout the state of Missouri.”
On Tuesday, July 7, Nixon signed an order that same-sex marriages must be recognized no matter what. On the same day, Brownback signed an act that allowed and protected religious officials and organizations to deny marriage to same-sex couples.
“When I hear of things like these laws, I think of the Jim Crow laws that the United States had so many years ago that segregated blacks and whites,” Owens said. “I don’t understand how people don’t see the similarities there and how people can still be OK with that even when they see the similarities.
“You’re telling a specific group of people that they’re not allowed to do something because you don’t think they should.”
Students at Pitt State say they are excited for the decision.
“I think it is good because we are moving towards more equality,” said Abbie Moore, junior in nursing. “I do not agree with same-sex marriage as a whole because of my belief in God, but it is not my place to judge someone because they are gay.”
Ryann Wiseman, Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) president, says the decision is a step in the right direction.
“It is the start of a positive movement for equality and everyone getting basic human rights,” said Wiseman, junior in communication. “It shows promise for the future of LGBT rights. I have seen some begotten backlash about the SCOTUS decision, but there has also been an overwhelming amount of support flooding social media.”
Cheyenne Yoakum-Moore, sophomore in psychology, is excited for the decision but knows that the LGBTQ community still has a lot to go through.
“We still face legal discrimination and there are still LGBTQ people of color being murdered and raped,” Yoakum-Moore said. “There is so much acceptance for gays and lesbians, but asexuals, pansexuals, transgender folks and many more are struggling.”
- Former MBA director receives sentence
| Kelsea Renz copy editor |
Former MBA director Michael Muoghalu was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on Monday, June 8, after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, according to Barry Grissom, U.S. Attorney.
Muoghalu was also ordered to pay $148,430 in restitution to the university, which the university has yet to receive.
Muoghalu admitted in his plea agreement that he committed these crimes while he oversaw the Nigerian graduate student exchange program at PSU.
According to the press release from the Kansas District U.S. Attorney’s Office, Muoghalu and an unknown accomplice in Nigeria created fake documents that allowed certain Nigerian students to join the PSU Nigerian exchange program. The students paid a deposit when accepted and were later refunded part of it. Muoghalu then would demand a fee for his services as intermediary.
Once the university discovered the scheme through an internal review, university officials sought help from the IRS, the FBI and the Crawford County Attorney’s Office, as well as hired the accounting firm BKD to audit the foreign exchange program.
“We’re grateful for the efforts of the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Crawford County Attorney’s Office in this matter,” said Chris Kelly, associate vice president for university marketing and communication. “They were very helpful in working with us to bring this matter to a proper resolution.”
According to the press release, Grissom also “commended IRS Criminal Investigation, the FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Metzger for their work on the case.”
The university has been working to reform its policies and procedures, particularly for the exchange program and the MBA office.
“We actually began moving forward in the weeks following our discovery of the matter,” Kelly said. “(BKD) didn’t find any major concerns with our program, but did recommend we update our policies and procedures.”
These are mostly general updates to close potential holes.
“In general, we will be updating policies and procedures related to the program. An example of this would be updating exchange agreements,” Kelly said. “We are in the process of doing this now and will have them in place this fall.”
Paul Grime, dean of the Kelce College of Business, has also been working on making changes within the college.
“We are in the process of restructuring several positions,” Kelly said. “The first change took place…with the appointment of Dr. Bienvenido Cortes to the position of associate dean and MBA director.
“Finance professor Kevin Bracker will become the chair of the Economics, Finance and Banking Department. We expect to be able to announce additional changes in the coming weeks.”
- City, university hoping for local casino
| Kelsea Renz copy editor |
The city of Pittsburg may get the first non-tribal casino in Kansas if the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board (KLGFRB) chooses Kansas Crossing over the other two proposed locations.
The three locations in the running are Kansas Crossing at the intersection of highways 69 and 400; Castle Rock near Downstream Casino in Oklahoma; and the former Camptown Casino site on Highway 69 north of Frontenac. The KLGFRB will meet on Tuesday, June 23, to discuss the applicants and could announce its decision that day.
“The KLGFRB will look at a number of criteria, including potential revenue, viability, ability of the local municipality to meet the infrastructure needs, etc.,” said Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce. “I can’t speak for the KLGFRB, but I’m sure their ultimate goal is to select the project that will be best for the state.”
The city has endorsed the Kansas Crossing location during these proceedings.
“The city feels that Kansas Crossing would be the best fit and the best community partner for Pittsburg,” Benson said.”
Benson says that having a casino would benefit the city, especially the local economy.
“Expanded gaming would have a tremendous effect on our travel and tourism market, particularly as it relates to … conferences and meetings,” he said. “We have the amenities to host these events, but often lose out to communities that have recreational activities … available for conference attendees to enjoy after their meetings are finished.
“Those visitors shop at our local businesses while they’re here, and the tax revenue they generate helps support essential city and county services that we all use.”
Chris Kelly, associate vice president of university marketing and communication, says that a casino would also help Pittsburg State University hold bigger and better events.
“Our greatest interest is in the possibility of adding hotel rooms to our community,” he said. “Obviously, the closer a casino is to our city limits, the more likely it is that our guests would be able to take advantage of a hotel.
“We have many events planned for our new facilities and having enough hotel space is critical.”
But support for the Pittsburg casino is not unanimous.
Residents on Langdon Lane near the proposed casino formed a Facebook group called No Kansas Crossing. The residents say they are concerned about the casino’s traffic impact on their residential neighborhood and the potential increase of drunken drivers on Langdon Lane, also known as 220th Street.
Benson says that although there are concerns about gambling in general, those problems already exist in Pittsburg because of the close proximity to casinos in Oklahoma and Missouri.
“Those in our community that choose to game are already making the short drive to the Oklahoma casinos,” he said. “I don’t think that giving them an option closer to Pittsburg will create a significant number of new problems.”
Even if new problems do arise, Kelly remains optimistic.
“We understand and respect those who are concerned about the potential impact a casino might have on our community,” he said. “Our hope is that operators will implement proper controls, policies and programs to minimize the negative aspects of gaming.”
- Not yet out of the woods
| Audrey Dighans editor in chief |
Although the state Legislature managed to pass a budget in time to avert furloughs that Pitt State and other government agencies were forced to enact, legislators say the budget bill fails to address the causes of Kansas’ financial troubles and many fear the state is not yet out of the woods.
Kansas’ plan to balance the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, starts with raising $411 million. Sales tax will be increased from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent and a new tax has been levied on cigarettes: 50 cents per pack. E-cigarettes are also included, with a 20-cent tax per milliliter starting in July 2016.
Other parts of the plan include a drop on the sales tax of food next year, but the food sales tax rebate for low income, those with disabilities and the elderly will be eliminated. Income tax rates for wage-earning workers are to be frozen through 2017 and are set to decline for low-income workers in 2018. The state’s cities and counties must also hold public elections to raise property tax income by more than the rate of inflation. In 2019, if state revenues grow by more than 3 percent, automatic tax cuts will be enacted. Dec. 31, 2019 is also the date set for when most sales and property tax exemptions will expire, except those for churches, agriculture, business-to-business transactions and select health-care related purchases.
Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, was quoted in the Wichita Eagle last week as asking the Senate to pass the bill “with a strong vote, strong enough to send a message to the House that says this is the answer. Finish our work here.”
The Senate passed the tax plan by the tightest possible margin.
In the House, the plan was approved on Friday, June 12, and was resent to the Senate, which passed it 12 hours later.
The House amended the plan by removing the Senate’s provision to reduce the food sales tax rate and cutting the rebate program for low income, elderly and those with disabilities. The House also eliminated income taxes for 380,000 low-income Kansans in the tax year of 2016.
Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, cast the deciding vote and left the chamber without answering questions.
Many in both the House and the Senate say the plan is flawed and they voted for it after being bullied by the governor and to prevent further, massive budget cuts.
Sen. Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, was quoted in the Kansas City Star last week accusing Gov. Sam Brownback and his administration of bullying both the Senate and the House into action, threatening to veto any plan that removes Brownback’s income tax exemption to 330,000 businesses. There is also the matter of the entire budget shortfall being caused by the income-tax cuts Brownback urged and lawmakers approved in 2012 and 2013.
Longbine said of the state’s plan in the Star: “The fix doesn’t fix the problem.”
He says he wants to watch the plan burn and voted for it to prevent cuts in the state’s schools, universities and other services.
In a media release by the office of the governor, Brownback says he congratulates the House and the Senate for “coming together in a spirit of cooperation and compromise to do what is right for Kansas.”
“This bill keeps the state on a path of economic growth,” Brownback said in the press release. “It continues our transition from taxes on productivity to consumption-based taxes and provides a mechanism for reducing income tax rates for all our citizens.”
Kansas’ so-called “pro-growth” tax policy will leave the state with the eighth highest sales tax in the country. Moreover, the promised job gains that Brownback promised have not materialized; in fact, the state lags the rest of the country in job and economic growth.
It is estimated that about 42 percent of the more than $400 million projected to be raised by the new budget will come from the increased sales tax. Another 10.5 percent is expected to come from the cigarette tax and 25 percent from tax deduction changes and redistribution of existing funds/other elements of the budget plan.
In his blog, Duane Goossen, former Kansas budget director (1998-2010), posted “The Obvious Solution,” on Tuesday, June 16. In his post, Goossen says the obvious solution to the state’s financial problems has gotten little traction and as Longbine argues, has been threatened with a veto if proposed: Undoing the tax policy that created the problem, Brownback’s “fiscal experiment” in 2012.
“If tax policy had been left alone, our state sales tax would now be 5.7 percent and the state could easily pay expenses with adequate reserves left at the end of the year,” Goossen writes. “Our state highway fund would be healthy, our bond rating up and the legislative session long over.
“In Kansas, we currently suffer from the latter irresponsible affliction. Income tax cuts that disproportionally benefit the wealthiest Kansans have destabilized state finances.”
- PSU prepares for possible furloughs
| Audrey Dighans editor-in-chief |
Pittsburg State University is preparing for the possibility of having to enforce state furloughs if the Kansas legislature is unable to agree on a tax plan by midnight on Saturday, June 6.
A furlough is a mandatory leave without pay for a preset number of hours.
Steve Scott, university president, said in a university press release that the university is looking for guidance from the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Department of Administration.
“Our intentions are to craft a plan that provides as high a level of support as possible given the limitations the state has placed upon us,” Scott said in the press release.
The possibility of needing to enforce furloughs comes from lawmakers having yet to agree on a tax proposal to close an estimated $400 million budget hole. The Kansas Department of Administration’s website explains that the state must have a budget in place in order to distribute funds, and with no budget agreed upon, the state is only authorized to cover expenses through June 30. However, since employees will receive their paychecks for the payroll period that begins on June 7, the expenditure is considered to occur in the next fiscal year. Thus, each agency, meaning Pittsburg State University, must determine which of its employees are non-essential and essential. The non-essential will have to go on furlough.
The decision of who is essential and who is not will be announced no later than noon on Friday, June 5. Those classified non-essential will be affected by furlough at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, June 7.
“We’ve been placed in a disappointing and frustrating situation,” Scott said in the university’s press release. “Unfortunately, our options at the campus level are very limited.”
The perhaps one ray of sunshine in this situation is that if state lawmakers manage to pass some form of legislation authorizing state expenditures for the next fiscal year by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, furloughs will not be enforced.
University employees on furlough will not be able to use accrued leave to avoid leave without pay. They may be able to receive unemployment benefits, retirement salaries and health care. Sick/vacation accruals will not be affected. Employees who are already on paid leave and are classified as non-essential by Friday, June 5, will fall under furlough just like all other furloughed employees.
For more information on furloughs go to https://admin.ks.gov.
- Erwin new v.p. for student life
| Audrey Dighans editor-in-chief |
Pittsburg State University announced a title change in the university’s leadership on Wednesday, May 27.
Steve Erwin, who has served as the university’s associate vice president for campus life and auxiliary services for more than a decade, will now assume the role of vice president for student life. With the title change, Erwin will report directly to Steve Scott, university president, on issues and operations within the university’s Student Life Division.
“The vice president for student life will serve as the senior position on campus focusing on the needs of students,” Erwin said. “While that was really the core of my previous role, having these functions as a division with a VP reporting to the president elevates the importance of these functions.”
Student Life Division works to provide services and amenities to students at PSU. The division encompasses several offices and departments on campus, including Student Health Services, Campus Activities, Greek Life, Student Government, Campus Recreation and Intramural Sports, Dining Services, Gorilla Bookstore, Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, Student Rights and Responsibilities, Housing and University Parking and Police, to name a few.
“A robust campus support system is essential to a student’s ability to achieve in the classroom,” Erwin said in a university press release.
He also says in the press release that he is looking forward to continuing the important work of the division for many years to come.
Scott says the announcement is more than just a title change.
“It represents both a symbolic statement about the importance of student life programs and activities on the campus and a practical statement as well,” he said. “Over the past number of years, Dr. Erwin’s duties have dramatically increased.
“He’s become our person for crisis planning and response, he oversees our campus security and with the implementation of a health center, arts center, recreation center and student center, his responsibilities have broadened.”
The decision for Erwin’s title change is also in line with the university’s new strategic plan, which Scott says will be revealed later this fall.
“The plan will keep academic excellence at the heart of what we do,” Scott said. “But it will require that we maintain a campus environment that supports student success and degree attainment. The plan will require more from our co-curricular efforts in support of our students.”
Before the announcement of the title change, John Patterson, vice president of administration and campus life, oversaw Erwin.
“Patterson has encouraged Erwin to report directly to me with campus security and safety matters,” Scott said. “We’ve also worked together on dealing with inclement weather. I am looking forward to building an even stronger relationship with him.”