University News

Dean search, planning drive UCS discussion

The possibility of new diversity courses sparked discussion at Wednesday’s meeting

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 10, 2013

As the University moves forward with the search for a new dean of the College and the strategic planning process, departing Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron discussed how to select her successor and implement proposals in the strategic plan at the Undergraduate Council of Students general body meeting Wednesday.

Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services — who will serve as interim dean of the college effective Jan. 1 — also attended. With Bergeron set to leave the University and become president of Connecticut College in January, a search committee is working to identify her successor, The Herald previously reported. Council members offered input on qualities they would like to see in the new dean of the College.

Abby Braiman ’15, UCS general body member, said she wants Bergeron’s successor to be “interested in cross-listing classes and tying together different disciplines.”

“I would love to see somebody who is focused on advising,” said Maahika Srinivasan ’15, chair of the Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee.

Council members gave feedback on specific proposals in President Christina Paxson’s recently released strategic plan, a document expected to shape her agenda for the University over the next decade.

The plan’s call for the creation of diversity perspectives courses emerged as a major topic of discussion.

“We should make sure these diversity perspectives courses are available to all students, sciences included,” said John Brewer ’17, a UCS general body member.

Victoria Kidd ’16, another UCS general body member, said she is worried about the potentially “self-selective” nature of the courses. “The people taking those courses are already interested in them,” she said, adding that she hopes the University incentivizes more students to enroll in the courses.

Klawunn replied that integrating diversity perspectives courses into sophomore seminars — another one of the strategic plan’s proposed academic initiatives — could encourage more students to take them.

The University should also add a feature to Banner that suggests diversity perspective courses to students, said Dolma Ombadykow ’17, a UCS general body member. “It would be great if there was an application on Banner that said, ‘If you like this course, you might also like this one.’”

“(That) sounds kind of like Amazon,” Bergeron said in response. “In all seriousness, I don’t think Banner is the place for that, though. I think Advising Sidekick could do that for you.”

The plan’s proposal to renovate the Sharpe Refectory sparked debate about which campus spaces need renovations.

“A lot of us don’t feel like the Ratty is number one on our list of things that need to be renovated,” said Christine Mullen ’16, a UCS general body member. “There are a few other buildings that need some tender loving care,” she added, citing Alumnae Hall, Sayles Hall and Wilson Hall as examples.

Wilson Hall is  “on our list,” Klawunn responded.

Several Council members said they would rather see the University create more study spaces instead of putting funds toward renovating the Ratty. “We need more communal study spaces besides libraries,” said Elena Saltzman ’16, a UCS general body member.

The University should create more “places where you can actually get your work done” that are alternatives to libraries, said Dolma Ombadykow ’17, a UCS general body member.

Keeping buildings such as Wilson Hall and J. Walter Wilson open for longer hours could ameliorate this issue, said Alana Bhatla ’16, UCS treasurer.

The Council also elected Matt Wood ’17 as UCS-UFB liaison. Wood’s election came after no candidates ran for the position in the last three general body meetings. In his role, Wood will facilitate communication between the Council and the Undergraduate Finance Board. In 2012, the relationship between the two bodies broke down after former UCS president Ralanda Nelson ’12 proposed an amendment to the UCS constitution that would have let the Council determine its funding independent of the board.

UCS President Todd Harris ’14.5 also said 2,032 students — around 30 percent of the student body — have already taken the annual UCS Fall Poll. Last year, only around 1,000 students had responded to the poll by the Wednesday UCS meeting. The poll was released Monday and will run until 5 p.m. Friday.

The Council also approved a request from the Open Arms Initiative to change its name to the Providence Refugee Project.

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