By Logan Hullinger
INDIANA – Student government representatives voted Tuesday to endorse a controversial plan to remove a third of the books from the campus library to make room for more student study space, according to two senators. The proposal has sparked opposition from librarians and faculty members campuswide.
Members of the IUP Student Government Association were divided, too. They voted 12-5 to support the “weeding” process ordered by Dean Luis J. Gonzalez, who asserted in September that his plan was a response to student demand. However, neither Gonzalez nor student government representatives produced data to support the assertion.
On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 26, SGA representatives distributed questionnaires in the library between noon and 4 p.m., according to student patrons. Some student government representatives said the survey was rushed and flawed.
One student senator said he voted against the SGA’s Tuesday resolution to endorse the survey, and he raised doubts about it during discussion.
“I thought the survey questions were a bit biased,” said SGA member Jesse J. Brown during a Friday interview in front of Stapleton Library. “The survey was long and inconvenient to a lot of students and didn’t give any reasons as to why students wouldn’t want the project to go through. There also wasn’t any inclusion of the opinions of library faculty.”
During Tuesday evening’s SGA meeting, Brown said he expressed opposition to the resolution to endorse the survey.
It “felt like the discussion was being sped up to a vote,” Brown said.
Brown said he doubted the validity of the research behind the weeding proposal.
“I feel like there wasn’t much investigation behind the proposal,” he said. “I’d like to see it thought through better. I think study space is great, but it should be investigated more, especially from the students’ perspective. We should have more of a say in it.”
Gonzalez presented the weeding project to SGA members earlier this year, Brown said. But the dean’s pitch emphasized what Gonzalez saw as its advantages without mentioning objections raised by librarians.
“He said focus groups, student organization and polls were in favor of this but didn’t provide any of the data during the meeting,” Brown said. “Gonzalez also never mentioned anything about the library faculty until one of the senators asked how this project affects the faculty, to which he said, ‘They’ll be OK,’ in a very vague manner.”
Brown faulted SGA representation of IUP students.
“I don’t think it has been done thoroughly in this situation; and this is a big deal,” Brown said. “It seems like SGA could do a lot more to back up its support.”
JONATHAN A. BILLER, an SGA Greek life representative, agreed with Brown’s critique of the library poll.
“The omission of the full description of the proposal in the survey made it seem like it was biased,” said Biller in a Friday interview. “They’re basically making this proposal based off of 1 percent or less of the student population. They need to get the voices, do research and not delegate.”
SGA leaders are not engaging with their constituents, Biller said.
“They should be taking increased polling, going into the public, shaking hands, kissing babies and all that jazz,” Biller said. “They’re not trying to get people aware or knowledgeable about it. And that’s a part of our job.”
SGA PRESIDENT Brian Swatt did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday evening.
Logan R. Hullinger, a senior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a staff reporter for The HawkEye, is from Clarion. He may be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu