Students speak out at open forum


Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian

Kent Willis, vice president for Student Affairs, Debbie Adishian-Astone (center-left), Fresno State vice president of Administration, and two ASI members pose for photo after student open forum.

By Jazmin Alvarado Villegas, Reporter

Fresno State strives for inclusivity and to make students feel welcome, but according to some students, there is still work to be done. 

On Feb. 22, Associated Students Inc. President Caroline Alvarez and Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval co-hosted an open forum where students were invited to share their thoughts and concerns about the university.

“It is super important to [ASI], as well as President Jiménez-Sandoval, to listen to your questions, comments and concerns,” Alvarez said in her opening remarks. 

The forum was held in the Table Mountain Rancheria Reading Room on the third floor of the university library. The meeting began promptly at 11:30 a.m. with introductions from both presidents. 

Fresno State hosted a student open forum at the Table Mountain Rancheria Reading Room on Feb. 22, 2023. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

After introductions, the floor was opened up to the students in attendance.

The microphone was handed to a student who voiced concerns about the support on campus being biased and discriminating. The student said that the university does not provide equal resources to everyone, claiming that some students receive special treatment. 

“One thing the campus needs to work on is student support, especially in diversity and helping minorities,” the student said. “Fresno State needs to make sure students feel welcome and supported, regardless of their [college] major or race.”

Jiménez-Sandoval said that he, ASI and department committees are working closely together to enhance student support. He didn’t specify how it’s better, but students can contact him via email, [email protected].  

“The stronger a student feels included, the more they will be able to thrive and feel like they belong,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. 

Another student spoke about the need for student-parent resources, saying there are little to no resources available for students with children. 

“I want a person that focuses solely on student-parent outreach. I propose and advocate that the university have a student-parent center somewhere on campus,” the student said. 

Kent Willis, the vice president of the division of student affairs and enrollment management, proposed that the student set up a meeting with him where they would be able to discuss how to put this plan into action.

The topic of poor mental health services was also brought up. Some students in attendance claimed that it is unfair that they are unable to meet with a counselor weekly. 

“Being able to meet with my counselor once a week is the bare minimum when it comes to mental health. Why are we waiting until students are actively suicidal to allow them to get help?” the student said. 

Administrators said that in order for there to be more availability with counselors and psychiatrists, the health service fee would need to be increased to support a larger staff. They said that they were actively trying to generate the funds to be able to finance these needs so that tuition would not have to be raised.

One student voiced that there should be more coordination between event planning. They told Alvarez and Jiménez-Sandoval that recent events have been overlapping, causing some activities to lose participation. 

One example provided was on Feb. 1 when the Cross Cultural Gender Center and the African American Programs and Services hosted the Black History Month event kickoff in front of the Memorial Gardens. 

There was a club rush event at the University Student Union patio happening at the same time, which was pulling people’s attention, a student said. 

Senators said they were working closely with ASI and CCGC to ensure that the event calendar was organized and free of conflicts in order to plan events equally.

In the open forum, students who participated were given a $10 ticket to any dining option on campus, with the exception of JuiceItUp.

Student attendance was low, with around 10 to 15 students in attendance, but Willis said those who did attend were able to voice their opinions and be heard. 

“We had the opportunity to hear from students from a lot of different backgrounds, from a lot of different majors, both graduate and undergraduate students, and they shared with us important concerns,” Willis said. “I’m excited that we got the opportunity to have the conversation; because as we embark on a new strategic plan for the university, this feedback is very important to make sure that we’re leading in a way that is responsive to the needs of our students.”

The leaders of the meeting assured students that change will be coming this semester. 

“We are about to finish a booth for myself, ASI, the cabinet and the dean,” Jimenez-Sandoval said. “The booth is so you are able to meet the dean, the cabinet and your leaders on campus.”

The booth will be at the Lyles College of Engineering and Jiménez-Sandoval has committed to being there an hour twice a month for student outreach. The booth will open in March, and students should expect to see the president there at the end of the month.