Campus News

Agnes Arnold Hall task force to decide future of the building

The University has organized a task force to help decide the future of the now-infamous Agnes Arnold Hall. | File Photo

In response to public outcry, special assistant to the UH chancellor Robert McPherson announced in an email that the University has organized a task force to help decide the future of the now-infamous Agnes Arnold Hall.

The Agnes Arnold Hall Task Force will consider all options regarding the future role of the facility and the ramifications of those options on UH’s academic delivery and university operations,” the email read. 

The University has also organized the Task Force for Mental Health, which aims to improve counseling and psychological resources on campus. The two task forces are made up of faculty, medical experts and student representatives. 

Ylleza Sylejmani is a member of the Agnes Arnold Hall Task Force and a Student Government Association senator. Though initially wary about working with faculty, Syeljmani said that after attending the task force’s first meeting on Monday, she now feels optimistic about their collaborative potential. 

“It’s not just some club for teachers to talk and gossip about a suicide. They’re actually looking forward to getting work done,” Sylejmani said. “It feels good to know that students are getting a helping hand in fixing this ship.”

She added that while the other task force members’ level of education and pedigree was intimidating, they took steps to ensure students in attendance felt comfortable enough to speak on the matter as peers. 

“I can tell they’re making an effort to listen to us,” Syeljmani said. “Even if it’s not through active conversation, even if it’s just acknowledging us at the end. It’s a start to make sure that our voices are heard.”

Though only officially formed last week, the task force has already hit the ground running. Syeljmani said that they expect to produce a recommendation for the University by as early as May 15. 

Potential impact aside, those selected must also contend with the added stress of helping the University make a potentially life-saving decision. CLASS ambassador vice president and resident adviser Nicole Harris said at first, she felt uncertain about her ability to handle the added stress.

“I keep a very busy schedule, so it was a bit of a shock at first,” Harris said. “I really didn’t know whether I could deal with something so heavy with so many other responsibilities.” 

However, after the initial shock faded, she ultimately decided it was her duty to speak on behalf of her fellow students. Harris also has a background working with mental health advocacy groups, a perspective she hopes will aid the task force in producing a realistic recommendation. 

“Pretty quickly, I realized what an amazing opportunity this was for me to help my fellow students,” Harris said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to bring my experience working in mental health advocacy, and I think we can accomplish a lot.”

Syeljmani shared the same sentiment of perseverance. Alongside now working with the task force, she also assisted in organizing the recent protest following the second fatality at Agnes Arnold. While the work has taken its toll, Syeljmani said it has ultimately helped her maintain an optimistic perspective. 

“It’s like a sense of relief. It’s like I have some sense of control,” Syeljmani said. “Even though we’re only able to make a recommendation, it still has instilled in me a sense of hope that maybe we really can change things for the better.” 

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