University News

UCS, student group leaders analyze Paxson’s plan

The Council expressed concerns that the plan does not emphasize financial aid or advising

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 26, 2013

Members of the Undergraduate Council of Students critiqued President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan at Wednesday’s UCS general body meeting, saying the plan does not mention advising, does not prioritize financial aid and emphasizes graduate programs over the undergraduate experience.

Council members and student group leaders — including leaders of Brown for Financial Aid and the Brown Conversation — split into small groups and shared opinions about the strategic plan, which Paxson released to the community last Wednesday.

The Council will compile the input from the small group discussions into a “student feedback report,” which it will present to Paxson and Provost Mark Schlissel P’15, said UCS President Todd Harris ’14.5. He added that Paxson and Schlissel will be guests at the Council’s general body meeting next week.

The plan’s lack of emphasis on advising services — which Harris made a key tenet of his presidential agenda — emerged as a major topic of discussion.

“There needs to be more attention to advising, because it wasn’t mentioned,” said Heather Sabel ’17, adding that the strategic plan should have included specific improvements to advising, like allowing undergraduates to choose their advisers sooner or making adviser training mandatory.

The plan also came under attack for what some students called a weak commitment to improving financial aid.

“We were worried about financial aid, because that wasn’t mentioned very clearly, especially going need-blind for international students,” Yuki Anaba ’17 said of her group members.

Alex Mechanick ’15, president of Brown for Financial Aid, said he was disappointed that only one of the priorities outlined in the strategic planning Committee on Financial Aid’s report — requiring all students on financial aid to apply for aid reassessment each year — was included in the plan.

Several of the groups agreed that financial aid should be the University’s top priority moving forward, over other options such as online learning, renovations and sustainability.

“Nine out of the 14 of us in my group voted that financial aid should be a top priority,” said UCS Secretary Andrea Wistuba-Behrens ’16. “Whether or not this is how the larger student body feels — I think that’s something we should talk about.”

The plan was also criticized for what some students said was a focus on expanding graduate programs at the expense of the undergraduate experience.

“We were worried about more emphasis on the graduate experience, because that might detract from the undergraduate experience,” Anaba said.

Marguerite Joutz ’15, a leader of the Brown Conversation — a group that aims to promote dialogue about campus issues — said one of the University’s top priorities should be remaining a “university-college” by focusing on the undergraduate experience, echoing sentiments she expressed at the strategic plan open forum Paxson and Schlissel hosted Tuesday.

The plan received praise from some for its  emphases on renovating residence halls and promoting sustainability.

UCS general body member Jon Vu ’15 said he thought focusing on sustainability was “smart” because it did not require a large capital investment.

“Our endowment is limited, so we’re picking our battles,” he said.

The Council also concluded the process of internal elections that it started at last week’s general body meeting. Abby Braiman ’15 was elected to maintain the relationship between the athletic department and the Council as Student Athlete Advisory Committee Liaison. Marileni Benopoulo ’17, Marcus Sudac ’17, Erika Byun ’17 and MacKenzie Daly ’17 will help decide which service groups get $200 of baseline funding as members of the newly created Service Group Funding Board.

Miyo Malouf ’16 and Yuki Inaba ’17 will report the council’s projects to the faculty as faculty liaisons.

Sudac was elected UCS-UFB liaison last week, but withdrew from the position because of other time commitments, Harris told The Herald. A member of the Undergraduate Finance Board has expressed interest in filling the position and will likely be elected to the post next week, unless other candidates come forward, Harris said.

The Council also approved student groups’ requests to change their names. Brown Student Television will now be called Brown Motion Pictures, and Brown Animal Rights Club will now be called Brown Vegetarian/Vegan Society.