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July 13, 2010. Seminole State College (commonly abbreviated SSC), formerly Seminole Community College or SCC, is an educational institution with campuses in Seminole County and Orange County, Florida, in the United States of America. The trigraph "SSC" and the moniker "Seminole State College" are shortened forms of the college's proper name, which may also be abbreviated SSCF or SSC of F, following the naming conventions used for other state colleges and universities in the USA. For a discussion of Seminole State College in Oklahoma, please consult, either link in this sentence.

Facilities

Particularly for the student expecting to attend classes on campus regularly, the size of the campus and amenities thereon are important. This section addresses the main campus, referred to as Sanford/Lake Mary, in Sanford, Florida. According to Google Maps, the SL/M (Sanford) campus is nearly square in shape and one kilometer on each side. While no larger than some shopping malls, the seemingly limited size of the campus should not be overlooked: seasonal Florida temperatures in the upper 90's (degrees Fahrenheit) and high humidity render navigating even a modest campus arduous. Thus, visiting various buildings during a notorious Florida summer in sometimes drenching sub-tropical rains is something to be compared against colder climates.

While the campus provides vending machines with cold beverages--useful for coping with oppressive weather--a survey found found few with functioning card reader equipment. It is therefore necessary to have suitable currency on hand.

Other student facilities include a student center/student union building in approximately the center of the campus, as well as a privately operated for profit cafe, Nature's Table, at both the Student Center and Partnership Center.

Library

The college's new and substantially renovated library is located in the Partnership Center, along with the cafe, classrooms, and offices. However, while the Center does offer library hours on Sunday (for the benefit of students preparing papers or other assignments due Monday), the cafe, Nature's Table, offers no weekend hours. Nature's Table does, however, offer catering for administrative and special events. The menu includes among its values a "Breakfast Buffet {(Executive)} with Fresh Fruit," priced at only $12.95 per person.

Learning Technology

The former Seminole State Library, located in the "L" Building, occupied only a single floor. The current facility occupies two, being designed both for Seminole State students and UCF students attending classes at the Partnership Center on the SL/M campus. With the growing popularity of distance learning, many students complete their mid-term and final exams via the Internet as opposed to within a physical classroom. Nevertheless, the stability of the newest technology additions to the Partnership Center Library are far from perfect. During one of Sanford's not infrequent summer thunderstorms, the entire Library lost power, excepting only battery-powered emergency lighting. All computers lost power and rebooted themselves. Those taking quizzes or exams during this outage would fall within the scope of the technology policy of their individual professor. The college does not grant automatic extensions or re-takes in such cases. Library staff state that uninterruptable power has been prioritized to essential servers and equipment only, and student-access Library computers are excluded.

The Library offers photocopy machines and laser printers on a fee basis. Neither of these technologies supports direct payment of fees via paper currency or coins. Instead, most students are advised to obtain a student ID card (which they may do in the Library). Such a card will be necessary in order to obtain circulating materials or books from the course reserves. Distance learners will also need a card in order to remotely access Library databases via the Internet. Cash can be transferred to the card, and a monetary balance on the card used to pay for printouts and copies. The OneCard (explained later in this writeup) may not be used as a substitute for the Student ID, or vice versa. In contrast, the UCF Card may be used at that campus' Library and elsewhere at the university.

It should be understood that the Partnership Center is effectively a joint SSC/UCF facility, and UCF students attend UCF classes for their UCF degree (emphasis and repetition intentional) at the SSC S/LM campus. Surprisingly, however, it would appear that UCF students must also obtain an SSC card in order to use the electronic payment functions described in this section. However, the reciprocity of SSC and UCF cards for Library materials borrowing is supported under reciprocal borrowing agreements.

The accuracy of this section is subject to the limitations of somewhat outdated information supplied by official SSC Web pages. One page states: "An official SCC Card serves many purposes on all Seminole State College campuses, including, but not limited to, identification and access to the library, bookstore, food, vending, copying and printing services." As explained in other sections in this writeup, however, the vending functionality is not available, either for SSC or SCC cardholders. Given that the Partnership Center has been operating for some time now, the absence of an integrated SSC/UCF/OneCard system is problematic and, frankly, annoying.

Student Center

The student center is not unlike a student union, of the kind found on a number of college and university campuses nationwide. Recreation includes billiards, television, arcade games, reasonably comfortable though well worn chairs, and wireless Internet (WI-FI) availability. However, like the Partnership Center that has begun to overshadow the now aging Student Center, the latter is not without peculiarities. Among these peculiarities are the ATM machine, a somewhat lonely and disused ping pong table, and seemingly never functional microwave ovens. On a brighter note, a second Nature's Table, located in the student center, provides lunch service. While Nature's Table does accept Visa and MasterCard, there is a minimum purchase requirement of $3.

ATM

The automated teller machine at the SL/M campus may be among the most peculiar--and inconvenient-- in America, rivaled in this respect only the by the bank with which it is associated. As the college itself explains, "From now on, students can choose to have their financial aid refunds delivered electronically to an 'SCC OneCard' debit card, which can then be used at special ATM locations on SCC sites." Unfortunately, only four sites in Central Florida have said ATM's. These four sites include SL/M and Seminole States' satellite campuses. Equally frustrating, the Student Center is not open during the same hours that classes may be session or the Library may be open for study. Therefore, prospective students must carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of using the OneCard as their first or exclusive bank account, as considerable fees will be encountered at virtually every ATM off campus. Students may find equally problematic the fact that the OneCard's sponsoring bank offers no physical branches in Central Florida. ATM users are cautioned regarding the teller machine's proclivity to dispense exclusively $50 bills, regardless of the withdraw amount selected. Users are similarly warned that obtaining change for vending purposes may prove difficult during evenings, summers, and weekends.

Vending

There are presently 8 vending machines in the student center. At least 4 are equipped with a card reader made by General Meters Corp. The meters are powered, but their displays read "use cash only," indicating that electronic payment is not accepted. Signs indicate that they were to have used the "S.C.C. Card." This writeup author has not seen them accept electronic payment in more than 1 year.

In contrast, compare the card offered by UCF Card Services. "The UCF Card can be used almost anywhere on campus." Likewise, the Card "{e}nables use as SunTrust ATM/Debit Card and Dining Services Dining Membership access with corresponding accounts." The Card does not appear to require any minimum purchase or purchase transaction fees. This comparison is not intended to suggest that any one school is superior to the other; it is, however, intended to make clear that what Seminole State says it offers and what is actually available are not necessarily identical things. Moreover, SunTrust ATM's are ubiquitous. OneCard ATM's are not. The General Meters equipment does not accept the OneCard. Neither do electronic readers in the Library.

Fact, Fiction, and Admissions

An SSC admissions representative, during a tour of the student center offered to prospective students, pointed out that the center offered amenities such as microwaves (which have not functioned since June), and that center facilities accept "debit, credit or cash." Regrettably, this statement is only partly true. At least five of eight Student Center vending machines accept $1 bills only, a denomination that the ATM does not dispense. {1}

Microwave Ovens

Until recently, the SL/M campus offered valuable dining options for frugal students, a genuine advantage given Florida's near record unemployment rate (as of this writing) and the fact that meal plans are not offered by the school. The Student Center had been equipped with three commercial microwave ovens for students, faculty or employees wishing to heat their own meals or beverages. As of June 2010, however, the microwaves had become unusable, and all three remain so in July. The college has not announced an estimate for microwave repairs. {2}

According to a Facebook posting from November 2009 by Seminole State College of Florida Students for Social Action!, at least some students recognized the need for flexible dining options:"Nature's Table Boycott: Find ways to get donated food from different restaurants and grocerie {sic} stores, make food, and bring the food to SSC and protest Nature's Table's high prices!"

Ping Pong

A table tennis or ping pong table is present in the Student Center, carefully hidden in a far corner behind a soda machine. The table, however, bears the following written warning: "This table can only be used during the presence of a table tennis club officer/advisor." The warning notice states that the table tennis club meets in the Center Monday and Wednesday between 3 and 5. This author was present in the Center during these times on Monday of week this entry was written. He saw no ping pong play of any kind. The Web page of the club, "myspace.com/scc-tabletennis" does not appear to be valid. A check of Student Clubs and Organizations on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus finds that the club does exist, but does not have a valid web page and does not seem to be active during the posted meeting times.

Writeup Author's Commentary

The College has many outstanding professors, and a number of positive qualities; however, I must ultimately recommend that prospective students select another school if their budget permits. The rationale is simple: because the size of the student body is larger than that of even many state universities, you are very likely to be a number. While the issues presented here and at Seminole State College of Florida: Academics--such as that of broken microwaves and thousands spent to hire a contractor to replace framed vision statements--seem trivial, they aren't. They are key to understanding the school's culture. Thus, while there is a donation box for use as a school food pantry for the needy, other potential economic hardships are ignored. Florida's economy is poor. Students can cope with this situation by bringing their own food and beverage and by preparing it themselves rather than by purchasing restaurant items at Nature's Table. The college leadership recognizes that the need for a pantry exists; however, they have it within their power to make students' financial lives easier and choose not to.

The SSC's facilities department could acquire an ordinary consumer microwave from any discount store for as little as $40 and operate it from any of dozens of working outlets. Employee break areas at businesses throughout America due this routinely. The college, with a student count in the tens of thousands, does not do what any wise small business would. I conclude that the college leadership is not unable to better the situation, they simply choose not to. It is not among their priorities. For some deans or vice presidents who may earn $100,000 per year, the needs of struggling students are unappreciated. I conclude that, "vision statements" to the contrary notwithstanding, the college's top priority is not its students' overall academic and personal welfare. To some, money is no object. $50 per week for lunches is "petty cash." For most students, I suspect the opposite is true. It's gas money. It does matter, and the administration has grown too isolated, frequently keeping only its own counsel./p>

References

{1} Personal observation of writeup author, July 2010.

{2} Call to office of Interim VP, Student Success and Chief Student Affairs Officer, June 2010.

Copyright 2010 Mark Murphy.

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