Before College Council (CC)’s hour-long debate over the U of C Divest resolution on Tuesday, Dean of the College John Boyer, Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen, and second-year College Council Chair Eric Holmberg informed the student body about some changes to expect for this year and the 2016–17 academic year.
Major changes include the renewal of the airport shuttle system, a new African Civilizations program in Africa, and the possibility of adding at least one new dorm building.
“The first thing on the agenda for this year was to sell this book [The University of Chicago: A History]: it’s the story of not just the university but your University, but a University that is widely respected in the U.S,” Boyer joked at the beginning of his portion of the meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, Holmberg announced that SG was working toward renewing the airport shuttle service by the end of the quarter. Executive Slate cancelled the service near the end of last quarter, prompting a resolution from CC calling for its reinstatement. Students will likely be able to take the free shuttles at least to Midway Airport and will be notified if SG decides to allow shuttles to transport them to O’Hare Airport as well. Shuttles previously traveled to both O’Hare and Midway.
Dean Boyer then added that the University will allow students to become a part of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA’s) U-Pass program next year.
In response to first-year CC Representative Qudsiyyah Shariyf’s question about the Core offering a limited and Eurocentric education, Dean Boyer also spoke about the possible addition of a neuroscience major and new community service programs in collaboration with the Harris School of Public Policy. He said that he is particularly concerned about giving students a quality education and upholding the values of the Core.
“The Core curriculum is a hard thing to manage. There are only two major universities in the U.S. that have it. The Core is a difficult thing to manage because it requires faculty to teach outside its comfort zone…. But it’s healthy to have that kind of debate because otherwise you have a brain-dead university, in which everyone agrees with everything,” Boyer said.
Aside from transportation and academic concerns, Boyer discussed his own vision of what University dorm life would look like in the coming years. He currently favors building at least one more dorm south of campus. The idea stemmed from his own knowledge of the history of University housing, when students originally had very limited access to dorms and had a difficult time building community life as a result. He would eventually like to have at least 70 percent of the University’s students living in on-campus housing.
Boyer’s other remarks concerned the University’s Inquiry and Impact capital campaign. He said that his goal is to raise $800 million, which would mainly go toward students’ financial aid packages and Metcalf internships.
“Financial aid is a high priority for me,” he said. “Collegiate scholars help prepare students from local high schools to be college ready. A big chunk of money goes to financial aid…. We’re hoping to have 1,700 paid internships in the College.”
Lastly, in response to second-year CC representative Calvin Cottrell’s question about expanding study abroad programs to Africa, Dean Boyer said that a faculty program is currently working toward offering a African Civilizations study abroad program in Africa next year. African Civilizations is the only study abroad program that is not located on the continent it studies. The program is currently held in Paris.
Dean Rasmussen spoke about the University’s steps toward sexual assault prevention, starting with the extension of Sexual Assault Awareness Week in April to Sexual Assault Awareness Month. She said that the University is hiring a deputy Title IX Coordinator who will work directly with students. She also spoke about the University’s decisions to release campus surveys in order to increase the administration’s transparency on campus and address students’ needs.
Facing an room overflowing with students holding signs and wearing T-shirts advocating one position or the other on divestment, Boyer returned at various points in his talk to the University’s history of rigorous debate, which he said was a sign of the strength of the student body.
“Everyone is entitled to that freedom [of expression], not in a regressive way but in a fair way, a way that listens to the other side…. This is embedded in the University,” he said.