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October 31, 2003

Update from the Student Government

This is the second in a series of regular Student Government (SG) columns that are designed to keep the campus community informed of the actions of Student Government.

As the Student Liaison to the Board of Trustees, I am charged with representing the interests and desires of the student body to the Board of Trustees. When I sought re-election this past spring, I spoke of my commitment to working to ensure that the student body was more aware of the actions and deliberations of the Board. It is therefore my great pleasure to report on the most recent Board meeting, which occurred this past Thursday, October 23.

A major focus of this fall's Board meeting was a discussion centered on how students build community. During this portion of the meeting, a panel of four students discussed the way that campus spaces (such as the Reynolds Club, campus housing, our athletics facilities, etc.) help to create a sense of campus community. Students from the College spoke about their experiences—which were in most instances positive—regarding involvement in community service, athletics, and the arts on campus. A common theme that became evident during the panel was a sense that several of the newer, more centrally located spaces on campus have positively affected many of the University's co-curricular programs.

I personally chose to speak primarily about how community is formed among graduate students, an area that has not received much attention at an institutional level. Although I believe that many graduate students create strong communities within their respective departments and divisions, we are only beginning to see communities that span several schools. Certainly the formation of the Graduate Coordinating Council six years ago and the Graduate Council four years ago have helped in this area, but beyond serving up pizza and beer to graduate students a few times a year, not much has been done to foster this important type of community. It is my opinion that there are two essential elements for the creation of a stronger sense of community amongst graduate students: the creation of spaces for graduate students to come together, and the development of support for graduate student programming at an institutional level. At 7,000 strong, our graduate student population is diverse and presents a unique opportunity for the creation of truly stimulating cross-divisional interactions.

In addition to the discussion about student community, several members of the Board spoke about the next phase of campus planning during a meeting of the Campus Planning and Facilities Committee. According to President Randel, the committee is considering the impact of several new building projects on the campus master plan, which was last updated in 1999. The University has hired a consultant to help determine the feasibility of a number of theoretical projects, such as a residence hall for the Graduate School of Business, a replacement for Mitchell Hospital, and even additional housing for the College.

If you would like to learn more about the Board meeting or view the full text of my remarks to the Board, please visit the Student Liaison section of the SG website (sg.uchicago.edu/liaison) where you can find notes related to this and other Board meetings. As always, I would like to encourage all students to contact me regarding these or any other issues. Feel free to contact me directly via e-mail at jess@uchicago.edu or by calling the Student Government Office at (773) 702-9732.