Council reports on top issues

By Justin Sink

The College Council (CC) found that its new year-long initiative to improve the areas of student life deemed most important by students had mixed success, as stated in a report released this week. The Council divided into “issue teams” focused on financial aid, meal plans, diversity, security, and transportation, each with the stated mission of bringing concerns of students to the attention of the appropriate administrators.

Although the work of the teams resulted in some notable successes—including changes to the meal plan as the result of dining surveys, brownbag luncheons to address security concerns, and work toward improving campus bus services—other groups seemed to make less headway into the bureaucracy of the University.

“This was the first year the College Council took an active role in investigating these student issues. Because the process was so new, our efforts were in many ways experimental,” wrote David Courchaine, the CC chair, in the introduction to the report. “Consequently, we did not accomplish as much as we had hoped we would. If these issues were easy to solve, they would not be issues at all.”

Among the most successful groups was the meal-plans team, which, through partnerships with the Student Government Campus Services Committee and Inter-House Council, presented a detailed report to the Campus Dining Advisory Board (CDAB) detailing student concerns with dining on campus. In response to the presentation, the CDAB reevaluated pricing on several items in Bartlett and worked to provide better service and more clean utensils and dishware in Pierce.

Other committees had less tangible results, but still characterized their work as successful. The diversity team hosted a meeting with administrators to explore diversity on campus and investigated some of the racially charged incidents that have occurred on campus this year, including the “straight-thuggin’” party in May House.

“Although the enormity of the issue made specific reform difficult, there is hope that next year’s CC will find new ways to address this very important issue,” wrote Christian Mitchell, a second-year in the College, who headed the diversity team.

Many groups grappled with the enormity of the issues and the time necessary to realize substantial change. The transportation team, for instance, found that trying to improve just one of the late-night, downtown, or campus transportation systems involved a substantial amount of effort and the cooperation of numerous other groups.

“Though nothing tangible came out of the late-night transportation committee, and though [the] drunk van is in much the same shape as the beginning of the year, help from [Director of Campus Transportation] Brian [Shaw] and [Transit Operations Administrator] Debbie Garfi led to a redesign of the late night bus routes. This is a long-awaited improvement that will finally be realized,” said the transportation report.

The security team cited their work with the transportation committee, highlighting areas where transportation infrastructure could be altered to reduce crime in areas where students live and a brownbag luncheon with students as progress towards a safer community.

The financial aid team worked with the Office of College Aid to clarify common misconceptions about financial aid and urged more open communication between frustrated students and the office.