Sandwiches, smoothies with UTPB president brings up food issues


Ana Ruth Lugo Mejia

Lured by free sandwiches, smoothies, and a chance to speak their mind on campus issues and enhancement, students showed up for the UTPB president's luncheon.

Ana Ruth Lugo Mejia, Multi-Media Managing Editor

During the recent “Sandwiches with Sandy” event, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) President Dr. Sandra “Sandy” K. Woodley answered questions that were sent to the Student Senate.  Woodley sat with students, faculty and staff for an hour at the Student Activity Center to listen to concerns.

One of the first questions that was raised was concerning the nursing program and the need for more faculty in the department.  Woodley guaranteed the crowd that UTPB is committed to the program and that they are working on garnering faculty. She added that they have hired a search firm to help them in the process of hiring more faculty. They are also working on course corrections to make certain nursing is a strong program. The program has grown so much since it was instituted back in 2013. Provost Robert Heimmermann was also present and added that “we have instituted a number of important measures to better train students for NCLEX” (a nurse exam). To the fact that there’s been discussion that the program is under observation, some students worried about applying and what would happen if the program shuts down. Woodley assured that at the moment all the signs are positive and if something were to happen no

Ana Ruth Lugo Mejia.
Student Senator Trisha Saran, left, prepares to begin the luncheon discussion with UTPB President Sandra “Sandy” K. Woodley.

one should be worried. She assured that they are not a stage where that such problems could occur.

Another concern was raised by freshman living in the residents dining hall have faced some challenges in their dorms for the entire year. Some have said that there’s mold growing in the walls causing certain floors to smell extremely bad. To this a statement from the Physical Plant was read stating that the students were right and that they appreciate their patience. They have found bad odors in the buildings and found pipes that were cut during construction, they have also found clean-out covers were never completed allowing bad odors to enter the building. They have repaired problems so far. The physical plant team has opened up ceilings and walls and found no evidence of mold. They will continue to monitor the building.

Food concerns were voiced as well. Freshman are required to purchase the meal plan but some think it’s unfair to require it when the food isn’t worth it, in their opinion. Woodley said that the issue has been talked about with Chartwell’s with whom the university has a contract for four more years. The university has met with executives from Chartwell’s and have talked about the food. She also mentioned wanting to bring Chick-Fil-A or some other food service vendor into the SAC. Woodley allowed, that in May, she will have a $3.2 million dollar request into the Board of Regents to renovate the SAC, and it will include secure door card access services so that it will become a 24-hour study space, complete with modern furniture and screens, and to also have food service in the facility at least until 10 or 11 p.m.

Woodley also addressed housing scholarships and fees and how some people cannot afford to live on campus. She said that they are looking at all of their financial aid scholarships and trying to find a way to optimize those. In addition, she added that, UTPB has received approval from the Board of Regents to increase fees and tuition. This will allow for additional revenue particularly for need- based financial aid. As far as financial aid goes they are working on gathering data to better understand the financial aid they’ve awarded and how it impacts student’s enrollment and choices.

The president expressed her desire and a major priority to double the numbers of people graduating. She said: “To me enrollment is important, but it is a means to the end. The end is how many people can graduate with a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s and have this wonderful career and financial stability for the rest of their lives. That’s our major focus.”

She also touched on the fact that UTPB is in the process of hiring a new dean for the engineering department. Also, there is the fact that the new kinesiology building is going up.

Issues like getting a track program, and mental illness were also discussed. Concerning the track program Woodley stated, that as of right now, the University currently conducts sixteen sports programs. For a small university, UTPB would need a track first. “There’s a steady pathway towards pulling in the support we need to build those amenities and have those programs,” Woodley noted.  Regarding mental illness there are plans on relocating the Counseling Center. Counselors are available for students, staff and faculty. Individual therapy services and group services and even family and couples therapy are available.