Student Senate hosted its semester forum with President Stephen Standifird on Nov. 11 in the Michel Student Center Ballroom. Bradley students used the opportunity to ask questions about the current state of the university.
Standifird opened up the discussion by sharing that Bradley was in a deficit before he arrived, but now the university is at a $3 million surplus. He also mentioned that the institution is soon welcoming a Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Chief of Diversity Officer as well as a new dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
One of the factors that Standifird said that influenced Bradley’s deficit was the hiring of Chief Financial Officer Sheryl Cox. Some changes Cox made were insurance plans for Bradley retirees and other areas that could have a quick influence on the budget.
By going into a surplus, Standifird said he feels optimistic and sees now as the time to reinvest into the university.
“We’re in much better shape than most people realize,” Standifird said. “One of the comments was, ‘We were curious when the university is gonna close its doors?’ The university is never going to close its doors. That was never a threat, and that’s less of a threat today than it was a year ago.”
One of the areas that could be faced with further investment is the minimum wage of the university, which Standifird said they want to raise to $15 an hour by 2025.
The raise is to attract potential university employees.
As for student jobs, the university is aware of the $8.25 minimum wage; however, it doesn’t appear to be a priority.
The speaker of the assembly, Emma Hoyhtya led the discussion and noted how the university seems to be addressing issues that can show a return on investments. However, she said that she wasn’t aware that students on campus get paid at different rates.
Hoyhtya shifted the discussion to the new Vice President of DEI and Chief Diversity Officer position. She was concerned about the tough subjects that come with the job.
“I know [that] in our day-to-day lives, it can seem like something that could be pushed to the back-burner, but it really is fundamental — especially for a university leader who is in charge of making a safe space for their student body,” Hoyhtya said.
She hopes that the administration is looking at their own biases and works against them.
Standifird shared that he had spoken with staff and alumni about diversity issues on campus.
“The fact that current students are experiencing what students from 25 years ago experienced is unacceptable,” Standifird said. “I want you to come back five years from now and have future students say, ‘I can’t relate to that experience.’”
He shared that the Vice President of DEI will receive $250,000 in funding as well as the staff needed to implement any changes. The candidates that Standifird has seen so far have impressed him.
“They’re not here to be the change; they’re here to lead the change,” Standifird said.
One of the changes Standifird is hoping to see is a focus on the retention rate for students of color. The current retention rate for students overall is 86%, which doesn’t track the retention rate for students of color.
Along with the retention rate, Standifird pointed out that the class of 2025 is made up of 35% non-white students.
A Bradley student at the forum pointed out that he, however, had only met one African American student that is local to Peoria during his time on campus.
Standifird pointed out that the university has given eight full-ride scholarships to students in the Peoria area. He said that he hopes that Bradley will collaborate with the city of Peoria with these scholarships.
“I’m pretty excited about the future trajectory of the university right now,” Standifird said.