‘Down to earth’ President answers questions


SGA President Alexa Bueltel was nervous after the civility speakers gave their presentations, the campus wouldn’t continue the civility discussion.

University President Linda Bennett was already working on a plan when the senior management major voiced her concerns at the 27th annual Breakfast with the President.

The Student Alumni Association held the event for students, faculty and community members to ask Bennett any questions they have regarding the university at 8a.m. Wednesday in Carter Hall.

The questions ranged from how students can get involved in civility to the future of the university’s graduate programs.

Bennett told Bueltel about a month ago she began working with the diversity committee to find ways people can discuss their different viewpoints civilly.

“I’m going to do a follow-up meeting with her to see what her plans are and to see if student government can help implement those,” Bueltel said.

Junior Shelby Heck asked what the university plans on doing in response to the AB Brown’s, the  branch of the utility company Vectren close to the university campus, unsafe sulfur dioxide emission levels.

“Sulfur dioxide can cause an asthma attack in as little as five minutes,” the philosophy major said. “I’m just concerned about the incoming students and what they might be facing and how they may not have the warning that they are going to face these conditions.”

Bennett said the university has “limited control” over the air quality.

“I think that USI has a responsibility to the students to let them know at least or pressure Vectren to fix their AB Brown plant, or have it at lower levels so USI students aren’t subjected to these high sulfur dioxide levels,” Heck said.

Heck said that she didn’t know the AB Brown plant wasn’t meeting the EPA’s level for safe sulfur dioxide emissions when she chose to attend the university.

“It’s the poison you can’t see,” she said.

Outgoing president of the Activities Programming Board Andrew McGuire asked if there was a way student organizations could hire caterers other than Sodexo to save money.

“You can’t really expect one company to always offer the most competitive prices or always have the widest variety of foods,” the junior computer information systems major said. “Sometimes it would be nice to have flexibility to go outside one company and reach out to another to most efficiently use the student activity funds.”

The university contract with Sodexo states that only Sodexo can cater events on campus, Bennett said. She suggested he and other organizations speak with Sodexo to negotiate prices.

McGuire doesn’t want to speak ill of Sodexo, he said. They’ve always been flexible with their menus and prices for catered events.

“I think at this point, it’s maybe less about the immediate solutions,” he said, “but maybe long-term, when they renew the contracts, whenever that term comes up.”

Student Alumni Association President Alexander Martens was in charge of inviting alumni and community members to attend the event as well as students and faculty.

He also encouraged questions from the students.

“President Bennett is probably one of the most down to earth people when it comes to serving as an administrator and I love seeing her personality shine when we have these gatherings like this,” the senior history major said. “Some of the questions we got were very detailed and some of them were very vague, and President Bennett really answered questions to the best of her ability.”

Martens recommends students visit the Student Development Office or the Dean of Students Office when they have problems during the rest of the year.

“Students should feel free to go to administrators and ask questions if they need help with something if they have a concern,” he said.

About 90 students attended the event, Assistant Director of the Alumni and Volunteer Services Caylin Blockley said. Attendance was up about 30 people compared to last year.

The graduate student was in charge of emailing students, specifically student leaders of campus organizations.

“I’m not really sure what other universities do in regard to this, but we definitely have a very positive president who’s always willing to answer any questions and help in any way possible,” he said. “This is her giving up her time, taking time out of her busy schedule to really just put herself out there and answer any questions students might have.”

In the future, Blockley said he hopes to find a way to make the event longer so more people can ask questions.

As a student at the university, Blockley attended the breakfast all four years, he said. He hopes students understand the importance of having this event.

“(Bennett’s) never going to turn down a question,” he said. “She makes you feel very comfortable, so we’re very lucky to have a president like that.”