Westmoreland attends SGA Senate meeting

University President Andrew Westmoreland addressed campus issues at Student Government Association’s Senate meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

Westmoreland said he’s prioritizing food services and diversity because they preserve the Samford experience, and this experience unites students.

“We need to focus on bringing us together,” he said.

Besides nourishing students, Westmoreland said the Caf’s atmosphere increases student interaction and promotes friendships.

Due to these benefits, Westmoreland said he wants to transform the Caf into a student magnet.

However, students recently expressed concerns about the Caf such as undercooked chicken and food cross-contamination. Westmoreland said he recognized these issues.

 “There’s basic things we have all complained about,” Westmoreland said.

 He expressed that there’s zero tolerance for these issues, especially cross-contamination.  

“That’s serious and there can’t be any room for error. That’s essential to food service. It shouldn’t happen,” he said.

On these issues, Westmoreland encouraged students to speak with Caf employees directly.  

Alongside student activism, Westmoreland said the university has been communicating with Sodexo, and that they’re addressing these issues.

“I think, without a doubt, you have the attention of the Sodexo management team and corporate Sodexo,” he said.

A Sodexo executive contacted him Tuesday requesting a meeting. Westmoreland said that these types of communication will solve these issues.

“There’s not enough interaction between Sodexo management,” he said. “They need to know your names, and interact with you regularly.”

Westmoreland said students can advertise their preferences through these relationships, and will promote transparency on both sides.

Westmoreland said he knows the Sodexo employees that work on the lines, in the kitchens and in the food court. 

“I don’t want these people to feel we are ungrateful because they put in an honest day’s work and provide for us. They’re devoted,” he said.

Besides communication, Westmoreland said he’s proposed “Leadership on the Line,” where students, faculty and administrative officials would work in the Caf once a week. He hopes it will become a tradition and that if enough people volunteered, this project could expand to all eateries on campus.  

Westmoreland said Michael Scheffres, Sodexo’s general manager, supports this.  

“We all want the best food services, and they do too,” Westmoreland said.

Westmoreland said he also supported reevaluating meal plans since some students feel they’re overpriced. He said prices are negotiated annually. Sodexo must make a profit, but Westmoreland said he would work find harmony.

Westmoreland also emphasized communication across campus, and encouraged more conversations about diversity. Senator Joyeuse Senga, a Rwandan international student, said she feels Samford struggles expressing and discussing diversity.

Westmoreland said he recognized these problems – International students and students of color only comprise 20 percent of both the undergraduate and graduate classes.

“I want to recruit more faculty and students of color, but also international students,” he said.

In response, Westmoreland said every faculty recruiting committee is searching for at least one person of color for each faculty position.

 “It’s important to have those forces present when decisions are made,” he said, in order to encourage future students in their college decision-making.

Besides faculty, Westmoreland said he wants students of color represented more throughout campus.

 “We need to be sure that we have students of color — for instance, international students — included in (campus) groups.”

Westmoreland said that Samford is expanding the ways it recruits these students.

“Dr. Gregory is working with us on having a modified preview day for students of color. The best way for us to try and recruit international students is to recruit them with the English proficiency already substantially in place so that they don’t have to go through a remedial program,” he said.

As the meeting concluded, Westmoreland encouraged SGA to continuously engage with diverse groups on campus.

 “When we sit down across the table with somebody and start actually having a real conversation, it seems that people tend to engage pretty well and are open to talk about a wide variety of things. So I encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re doing it now.”

William Marlow, Staff Writer

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