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Financial aid ranks as students’ top priority in UCS poll

Sexual assault policy reform, academic advising and off-campus safety rated as key issues

Financial aid emerged as the top priority for respondents to the Undergraduate Council of Students’ fall poll for the second year in a row, with sexual assault policy reform claiming second place, said UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15. Advising and off-campus safety were also high-ranking issues of concern.

Forty-two percent of the student body — 2,715 undergraduates — completed the poll, marking an increase from the 33 percent of undergraduates who completed the poll last year. UCS is set to release the poll results in a community-wide email in early November, Srinivasan said.

“The question that will drive a lot of our broad, issue-based work at UCS will be question one, which basically ask(ed) the way that students value hot-button issues that have come up in the last two years,” Srinivasan said.

The first question listed seven issues of interest in recent years:  expanding mental health services, hiring more faculty of color, adding a student representative to the Corporation, divesting from fossil fuel companies, increasing opportunities for students to have conversations about controversial topics, reforming sexual assault policy and improving undergraduate financial aid.

“Financial aid came out on top, it always has, and it probably always will,” Srinivasan said of the first question’s results. “We just need to have more engaged conversations about financial aid.”

Respondents ranked reforming sexual assault policy as the second most important issue. “It validated a lot of the work that we had already been doing and was a great indicator for how much the University needs to pick up momentum on this particular issue,” Srinivasan said.

First-year advising surfaced as another key issue. First-year and sophomore respondents expressed a higher level of satisfaction with first-year advising than respondents who were upperclassmen. Overall, respondents indicated they believed that having a more responsive, initiative-taking academic advisor or Meiklejohn would be the best way to improve the first-year advising experience.

Sophomore advising received rankings that followed a similar trend, with underclassmen expressing more satisfaction. “Sophomore advising is something huge — an issue that we clearly need some targeted improvement on,” Srinivasan said.

Concentration advising faired better among upperclassmen respondents, with a satisfaction ranking of three-quarters among juniors and approximately one-half among seniors.

Poll questions regarding campus safety assessed how safe students felt on or off campus during the day or night. Most respondents chose “somewhat safe” or “very safe” for all four questions, with the exception of more than 35 percent of respondents indicating they felt “somewhat unsafe” off campus at night. Most respondents indicated that they thought increasing the number of “yellowjacket” safety officers would be the most effective method of increasing their feelings of safety.

Srinivasan said this statistic is “motivating,” adding that “there’s a lot more work to do, especially on streets and street corners that are considered off campus.”

The “community care” section of the poll asked respondents to rank their comfort with supportive actions such as speaking up when someone makes an inappropriate comment about sexual assault, interrupting and escaping a situation that looks or feels wrong, calling Emergency Medical Services when an intoxicated friend needs care, knowing where to refer a friend who needs help with academic issues and knowing where to refer a friend who needs help with personal issues. Out of the five options, the referring a friend struggling with academic issues option ranked last.

“The question about community care situations is a good indicator that we need to revamp how we … educate students on campus resources,” such as the Office of Student Life, the dean of the College office and Counseling and Psychological Services, Srinivasan said.



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