The Campus Resources Education Committee held a sparsely attended town hall meeting Tuesday evening, intended to inform students and yield suggestions on how best to publicize campus resources, such as mental health services.
The committee was formed at the end of autumn quarter to analyze and make recommendations on the quality and availability of services and resources the University provides for students. The committee is headed by Sheila Yarbrough, assistant dean of students, who was absent from Tuesday's meeting due to illness.
In the past, students had been able to call Niteline, an anonymous, late-night information and referral telephone service, which was shut down last year, to locate campus resources. While the Chicago Life handbook, provided to each entering first-year and transfer student, is designed to provide information on campus resources, the committee has confronted what they see as the lack of a convenient and encompassing reservoir of contacts and data.
"The University has a lot of great resources," said committee member Terren Wein, library manager of Career and Placement Services. She noted that the goal of the committee was not to expand the number of resources, but to find out what resources were useful and to develop a way of centralizing and organizing information about them.
The first goal of the committee is to develop a Web site, emergencysupportresources.uchicago.edu, listing resources provided by the University, the city of Chicago, and various national organizations. Sarah Custer, project coordinator for academic publications, is spearheading the project and said that she wants the Web site to be "one place where you can go to get the answer to any question."
The committee is experimenting with different formats to meet student needs and hopes to have a prominent link on the University's main Web site.
The committee also would like to initiate a telephone system, which would be integrated with the Web site.
According to Kyle Lakin, student ombudsperson, the committee is planning the phone system to be a touchtone service, providing callers with useful names and telephone numbers. The committee will apply the same classification system on the Web site and phone system. "We don't want students to have to learn two systems for identifying where to find help for their problems," Lakin said. The committee has met with NSIT to begin developing the service.
The committee devised the town hall meeting both to begin marketing its initiatives and to get student feedback on how these resources could be better advertised. One member of the committee said it hoped to learn from Niteline's successful marketing strategies, which included distribution of brightly colored cups prominently displaying Niteline's phone number and posting signs all over campus.
Students at the meeting expressed concern about the apparent disunity between the various branches and organizations of the University administration and how this has affected its provision of resources. "The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing," said Holly Bland, a student in the Divinity School and chairman of the Graduate Council. One member of the committee countered that the committee itself was an interdepartmental initiative, and that all of the offices of the administration and other relevant organizations were committed to assisting in its success.
According to Wein, the committee is still at a diagnostic stage. She said the committee is still "trying to find out where the gaps are" in student knowledge about campus resources.
Wein has begun to assemble a questionnaire to analyze what students know and do not know about campus resources, in order to compile a list of frequently asked questions for the Web site and for a widely distributed printed version, the form of which has not yet been determined.
To achieve its goal of increasing student use of campus resources, the committee has already launched its Web site and hopes to continue implementing its initiatives over the next two quarters, with full execution and marketing of its plans beginning next academic year.