President Tetlow Joins School in Student Life Council


President Tetlow attended her first Student Life Council on Wednesday. (Courtesy of Facebook)

On Wednesday, Oct. 19, Rose Hill’s monthly Student Life Council (SLC) was held in The Great Hall with special guest President Tania Tetlow.
Wednesday’s SLC was the first attended by the new president, who fielded questions from students regarding, for the most part, Fordham’s recent COVID-19 vaccine booster health requirement. The town hall meeting also included members of the United Student Government (USG), Residential Housing Association (RHA), Commuting Students Association (CSA), Office for Student Involvement (OSI), Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and administrators.

The meeting, commenced by RHA Vice President Kendra Kleintop, GSB ’24, began with general introductions from the council attendees. This was followed by an introduction from Tetlow, who remarked on her history with student leadership and law education.
Public agenda items were limited to allow Tetlow time to answer student questions.

Deborah Abesanjo, FCRH ’26, raised concerns regarding the lack of air conditioners in some first-year dorm halls, as well as the “classism” inherent in having to apply to certain Integrated Learning Communities (ILCs) like Loyola Hall and Queen’s Court. Tetlow ended up responding to the latter concern. “You don’t want ILCs to be totally random,” Tetlow said. “It’s less about having the best rooms and more about creating communities … ‘res life’ is not just about where you live or who you’re in a hall with, but about making ‘res life’ a function of how you learn.”

Following the last call for public agenda questions, the council moved towards the pre-submitted written questions for Tetlow. In response to a question about what it is like to be the first woman and layperson president, Tetlow responded, “It’s more jarring for everyone else than me.” She spoke to the intimidation she has felt as she has been introduced to the school’s inner workings, but emphasized the need for self-care and confidence: “Practicing having courage is like having a muscle that gets stronger.”

A question regarding the Fordham core curriculum was brought up by a Gabelli School of Business student who said they felt the classes took away from their career-oriented courses. Tetlow defended the core curriculum and said, “[The administrators] also think about being nimble. I think that if we focus more on skills than courses, then business students will understand.” Tetlow did however note that it can be hard for some students to pay for a Fordham education that consists of two years of core classes.

A question was read out to Tetlow concerning ensuring minority students have easy access to academic and social resources at a predominantly white institution (PWI). Tetlow drew attention on Fordham’s retention rates for first-year students, and the fact that there is “no disparity” between white and non-white students. Expanding on graduation rates, Tetlow said that “looking closely at that data…it’s not about checking boxes, but being equitable. If we chose you, you need to know you belong here.”

At this point, USG Executive President Santiago Vidal mentioned the influx of international students at Fordham following the pandemic. “It’s really good to see upward trends in the new classes,” Vidal said. “I’m really happy to hear that.”

The Student Life Council consisted of many Fordham organizations. (Courtesy of Hanif Amanullah/The Fordham Ram)

In response to a question asking what work was being done to accommodate the interests of Fordham adjunct faculty in the Fordham Faculty Union, Tetlow mentioned that there have already been 24 meetings between members and administrators. “It’s about trying to keep our costs down” for students, Tetlow said. Though acknowledging the divisions in higher education between tenured-track and non-tenured-track educators, Tetlow told students in the audience, “We’re trying to really balance giving you what you deserve … at a price that you can afford and knowing both of those are under constraints.”

Tetlow also explained that Fordham pays adjunct faculty “basically more than anyone else in the New York area” outside of schools with significantly higher budgets like NYU and Columbia University. “Our employees are dealing with the inflation rate like you are,” Tetlow said, “but we aren’t going to charge you that rate plus tuition increases to pay for them.”

Interim Associate Dean for Student Support & Academic Initiatives Patricio Meneses subsequently asked Tetlow to explain the nuances of Fordham’s endowment, which hit one billion dollars for the first time last year. “We hear about endowments,” Meneses said, “but can you point out to students how endowments work?” Meneses cited students who might wonder whether Fordham has more money to go around than they show.

Tetlow then explained that Fordham’s endowment functions more like savings in the bank, from which Fordham draws interest: “We live off the interest of an endowment forever … 181 years ago Fordham put money in the bank rather than using it all up, and the minute we spend that endowment … we have less income.” According to Tetlow, about 3% of Fordham’s annual budget is actually covered by the endowment. “If we spent the endowment on us today we would be permanently making it harder for Fordham going forward,” she said.

USG Vice President of Student Life Cole Mullins, FCRH ’24, raised concerns regarding how far into the holiday season finals are scheduled. Tetlow responded that she was in the middle of talking about changing that schedule to be more equitable for out-of-state students. “I’m gonna check on that,” Tetlow said. “Particularly with students for whom that plane trip home is a big expense … it’s very hard.”

The final topic of the meeting was the COVID-19 booster requirement. The first question read out asked why Fordham “waited 25 days after the CDC recommendations came out to require the booster.” Tetlow’s response to this was short. “Fordham has been consistent in requiring up-to-date vaccines” since the beginning of 2021, Tetlow said. “The delay was just in repeating that requirement, if anyone was confused about that. I think the clarity was there going back to the very first booster.” She also mentioned that Fordham “[needs] to keep up to date, and that has been consistent all along and very public.”

In answering why Fordham was one of the few schools to require the vaccine booster, Tetlow responded that those schools mostly required masking in lieu of boosters; she explained that to keep Fordham’s in-person experience alive, the booster was necessary.
She explained that she understands “that desire to move on and not think about it again,” but in response to those who want to move on, she said, “I personally disagree, but respect very much people’s views.”

In Tetlow’s final statements regarding the booster, she said that students should want to get the booster for the sake of others, even if they themselves feel they will be safe if they contract COVID-19.

“It is critical for us to protect our immunocompromised students,” Tetlow said. “While students are young, a lot of your faculty and staff are not…it’s about that sense of caring more broadly for the community.”

When a student raised concerns about the mRNA biotechnology used to create the vaccine, Tetlow recommended they read the book “The Code Breaker” by Walter Isaacson. “The mRNA tech has been around for a decade,” Tetlow said. “This booster is a slight tweaking of the first vaccine, which has undergone so much trial. They don’t do massive tests on flu shots every time they update it.”

Finally, Tetlow stated that, “The reality in the world is, while we feel like we have a right to do what we want to do and not have it affect others … the reality is that it does.”

Assistant Vice President and Dean of Student Services at Fordham University Keith Eldridge added that students who neither receive the vaccine nor are granted an exemption by Nov. 1 “will be restricted from campus.”
The SLC town hall concluded, after a few short updates from Dean Charles Clency regarding the lower levels of student intoxication on campus compared to this point last year.