Students Share What's On Their Minds at Chancellor's Town Hall
Ioana Patringenaru | February 25, 2008
Fees, diversity, quality teaching and student participation were some of the topics on the minds of students who attended a town hall with Chancellor Marye Anne Fox Wednesday at UCSD’s Student Services Center. About 50 people showed up for the meeting and about a dozen students asked Fox. Students are the most important component of the university’s community, Fox said.
“We want to embrace your ideas,” Fox told the audience. “We want to hear what’s on your mind.”
The first question reflected students’ concerns about a possible increase in student fees. Past increases are putting a burden on students, said senior Junie Chea, who said she owes about $20,000 in student loans.
Access and affordability are the benchmarks that will attract students to UCSD, Fox replied. Keeping fees and housing costs low is one of the university’s biggest tasks, she also said. UC fees are still some of the best bargains in the country, but officials recognize they put a burden on many students, she added. University officials are working closely with state and federal agencies to increase financial aid, such as Pell and Cal grants, she said. They also are turning to the private sector to fund scholarships, she added. “We’re working hard,” Fox said.
Nicole McElroy, chair of the campus’ Student Affirmative Action Committee, asked what officials are doing to increase the number of under-represented students who decide to go to UCSD once they have been accepted. Creating a welcoming environment is key, said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Penny Rue. “Most of these students can go anywhere in the country and we want them to chose us,” she said.
Officials are calling students who applied, Fox said. Recently, a large group of black students and their parents visited campus. Rue said officials plan a similar event for Latino students. Officials have been going off-campus to visit groups in south, east and north San Diego County, the vice chancellor added. Fox said she attended Parent Teacher Association meetings to talk about financial aid and classes children need to take to be admitted to a UC campus. She urged current students to talk to prospective students and tell them about their experiences at UCSD.
Nicole McElroy asks about attracting under-represented students to UCSD.
Meanwhile, Matthew Bright, a theater major and chair of the University Centers Advisory Board, said students should have the final say about decisions that impact student facilities built and maintained with student fees. The university is getting quite a bit of student input through several committees and discussions with student government, said Vice Chancellor Gary Matthews. “There is a collaborative spirit here on the campus,” he said. Also, the UC Board of Regents requires chancellors and vice chancellors to bear fiduciary responsibility for student facilities, Fox said. “The general process of shared governance is something that I think is very important to the whole university,” she also said.
Student Olivia Silva then asked whether quality teaching or research was UCSD’s top priority. She also wanted to know what part teaching skills play in faculty hires and evaluations. Faculty are evaluated every three years and these evaluations take teaching quality into account, Fox said. Often, some of the best researchers also are some of the best teachers, she added.
“We are a research university because that conveys top quality, state-of-the-art, world-class education,” Fox said. “But you only become an effective research institution if you also emphasize teaching and service.”