By Nick Jordan
One day before the official ribbon cutting ceremony of its new satellite studio, President Fred Clark appeared live on Bridgewater State University’s own 91.5 WBIM-FM to discuss a wide range of issues. These issues consisted of parking difficulties and supporting the mental health of students, faculty, as well as those with disabilities. This was his second appearance on the station since becoming president of the university in 2015, the interview was conducted by WBIM’s News Director Alyssa Raymond, Heather McKenna, Mia Sarkisian and myself.
Described as an “important heartbeat of Bridgewater State for decades,” Clark admitted to laugh at the fact that he was never involved in the station as a student because he wasn’t “popular enough.”Although, he said he had many friends who were involved. While he stressed the importance of music, being something that “unites the world,” he also cited the radio as being a tool to “share information.” When asked by a student employee what the best part of being president was, he replied:
“Interacting with students, it’s not even close. You know, sometimes you have a job to do and you go about your business but sometimes you have a job that’s really more like a passion. What makes this a passion for me is being able to interact with students and find a way, one student at a time, to make a difference for everyone on campus. That’s what lifts me up and brings me energy. It’s why I’ve been involved (with the school) ever since I graduated and never really disconnected.”
Another student asked what it would look like if he could build an ideal campus center. He stated it would be something that is
“One-hundred percent dedicated to students and student clubs and organizations. You wouldn’t have administrative functions or even classrooms in that building. You would have places for students to not only just lounge in and study but also to interact through clubs and organizations, or radio station, and really be almost like a home. Our vision for the RCC is to move out all of the non-student related functions.”
Parents, too, had questions for President Clark and he delivered on that front as well. One parent, who was divorced and had two children fulfilling higher education, asked why more money was not being given to them by the state in order to help pay for these expenses. Clark replied that he is “very focused on increasing the amount of scholarships we have for our students” and pointed out that the university already gives out “one hundred million dollars for financial aid,” though he noted the state has a long way to go and has not done an adequate job of keeping up with inflation and meeting its obligation to keep tuition low. He is trying to get more private money, with a goal of getting the university’s endowment to one hundred million dollars within the next ten years, or before he retires. It currently stands at $52 million, and was at $38 million when the president first began his tenure.
Clark cited improvements at Kelly Gym, the DMF building and Crimson Hall as ways in which the university has made strides in being more handicap accessible. He did stress, however, the need of elevators in Tillinghast Hall and added that there are already plans to add an elevator in Hunt Hall and attempts being made to obtain state funding in order to make further improvements at troubled spots like Kelly Gym, the necessary funding reaching millions of dollars. Twelve handicap spots were also added near the Maxwell Library.
In terms of parking for fully-able students, Clark encouraged students to use the new feature on the school’s app that informs students on the status of the Spring Street parking lot as well as the parking garage, with green indicating an abundance of spaces available, yellow indicating spaces running low and red indicating no spaces available. More lots are planned to be added to the feature to better inform commuter students. Spaces have been added at Hooper Lot, he says, and the potential for more spaces being added at Burnell and Hart Lots is being looked at.
In lieu of World Mental Health Awareness Day occurring on Wednesday October 10th, the president was asked about the resources students had on campus to support this growing cause. Clark pointed to the Wellness Center located near Weygand Hall as a great resource with it being staffed with counselors, some of whom are available to students even after closing through the phone, as well as partnerships with outside organizations. He called for improvements to be made on the university’s website in order to make these resources more visible for students to find. Also referred to was the campus’ “care team,” a cross divisional team that looks into specific students who may need extra help. Academic-related stress, of course, can be combated through the Academic Achievement Center.
President Clark also brought with him a playlist of songs he wanted to share with students, including Elton John’s “Believe” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” He chose these songs because of the positive messages they conveyed, and he recently attended an Elton John concert with his wife, also an alum of BSU and The Comment where they began their relationship.
The interview concluded with President Clark praising the ability of WBIM and The Comment to provide a “microphone” to the “decision makers” on campus. Unlike our nation as a whole, our campus media gets along swimmingly with this president and we are incredibly grateful for it.
Nick Jordan is the Opinion Editor for The Comment.