University President Don Randel and Vice President Steve Klass met with students to discuss their concerns at the final Presidential brown bag luncheon of the year in the Reynolds Club South Lounge Thursday. The brown bag luncheon is a longstanding quarterly event sponsored by the Office of Minority Student Affairs to foster a connection between students and the University.
Anne Harrington, recently elected SGFC graduate student liaison, raised the issue of graduate student health care. "I would like to see some sort of fund directed specifically to student health care that I could allocate money to," she said, adding "there is definitely a group of students who would be willing to donate money to something like health care, which they feel they need." Harrington also spoke of the problem of fluctuating insurance rates. "I'm paying more for less coverage now," she said. "What I'd like to see is the University acting to create a corridor which will give students some stability. Making health care self-funding is putting too much pressure on graduate students themselves."
Klass responded to Harrington's concerns. "We're not at the point financially where such a corridor is feasible," he said, adding that he looked forward to the results of a survey Harrington is preparing which she feels will quantify graduate student concerns.
Randel also chimed in on the issue, noting that a large part of the income comes from undergraduate admissions. "The question is then: Do we take money away from the undergraduate funds and direct it to graduate health care? There are no simple solutions to this problem." Randel noted that the University's emphasis on decentralization "pays off academically, but it can make it difficult to do certain things."
Randel spoke of the Chicago Initiative, the University's major fundraising effort, "Our undergraduate target is $100 million, and we've reached almost half of that. It's lagging a bit. Our principle hope is to close the self-help gap. If you look at the financial package What we expect [students to pay] in the amount of self-help is considerably more than the median so individuals may have to pay more to come here than say, other institutions which they may be considering."
The construction of the new Amandla Center, which will be relocated from its current place in Harper, was also brought up at the luncheon. Bill Michel, assistant vice president for student life and associate dean of the College said, "We're looking into expanding the resources offered through the Office of Minority Student Affairs and the new center. There will be a meeting where students can meet with the architects to address concerns with the new center sometime in May." Michel added that he hopes to open the new Amandla center by winter 2006.
Second-year Mitchell Erlewine asked for Randel's opinion on Chicago's self-deprecating T-shirts. "I'm a tour guide and people are always asking me about those T-shirts that say, U of C: Where fun comes to die'" Randel said he was not opposed to the T-shirts. "The day we lose those T-shirts is the day we lose something special about the University. You guys were smart enough to realize that that is a very interesting and telling kind of humor."