President holds first open forum meeting

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-Elect

As the university transitions from fall to spring, administration, faculty, staff and students are still seeking answers to questions posed at various open forum meetings held at the end of last semester.

The previous forums were held in order to rectify a lack of diversity and inclusion within the Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA). However, President Hennigan’s most recent effort utilizes a university-wide model.

On Monday, Jan. 13 at 5 p.m., President Hennigan hosted a “Diversity and Inclusion Forum” in the PNC Theater of the Pittsburgh Playhouse. The forum was announced to students in an email sent out on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

“In early December, I met with a group of students primarily from the Theatre program to address concerns related to Diversity and Inclusion at Point Park University,” the email from the Office of the President read. “I realize that there are students outside of this program who have also relayed concerns about inclusivity, and would like to ensure that all students, staff, and faculty have an opportunity to express their thoughts about diversity at Point Park.”

Monday evening’s forum was in low attendance, as compared to the attendance of previous COPA-related town halls. Present were several faculty and staff members, as well as multiple members of the administration. Few students were present, though the students in attendance included several Student Government Association (SGA) members.

Participants in the forum were able to ask questions of President Hennigan, Vice President of Human Resources, Lisa Stefanko, Director of Title IX and Diversity, Vanessa Love, Provost, John Pearson, Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations, Bridget Mancosh and Dean of Students, Keith Paylo.

Although overall attendance was low during the forum, several topics were discussed. Students had concerns and inquiries regarding disability services, Title IX processes, curriculum and training. Throughout the meeting, President Hennigan continuously referred to his plans to create a “steering committee” in order to address certain issues. According to President Hennigan, he is looking to create a university-wide steering committee, in addition to the theater-related committee that has already begun to meet.

“We’re going to have two parallel initiatives,” President Hennigan said, regarding the theater committee. “I think there were six students in that group. So because those concerns came out in December, and we’re doing shows right now for this term, we wanted to keep that process moving at a pace.”

One of the major points of discussion during the forum was the order of operations by which changes should be made. President Hennigan, as well as Stefanko, were adamant that a steering committee would be a suitable first step.

Stefanko also mentioned that during the following day, President Hennigan, as well as other members of the administration, would undergo diversity training, though she mentioned that ”a training event is not going to change the culture,” but would rather be a component of change.

President Hennigan stated that following the forum scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 15 from 2-4 p.m. in the PNC Theater, an email would be sent out to the entire university with a form for individuals who wish to participate in the steering committee.

President Hennigan shared in an interview with The Globe that the theater committee has started work on a new show selection process for the Playhouse season, as well as putting together more diverse creative teams for shows and hiring a “diversity, inclusion and equity facilitator” to work with students. He also stated that steps were being taken to update the COPA Student Handbook to allow students to not audition for a show if they so choose.

President Hennigan also stated that two new members to the Board of Trustees, both people of color, would be up for election within the next month.

“There’s no guarantees until it actually takes place, but typically, we’ve never had the Board reject a candidate,” President Hennigan said.