University President Don M. Randel and Vice President and Dean of Students in the University Steve Klass lunched yesterday with students who voiced their concerns in this quarter's installment of the presidential brown bag forum.
Often getting heated, issues of graduate student health care and the dependency of academic departments on single faculty members dominates the discussion. Some wanted to talk about the fact that 11 students this year were removed from Legal Reasoning, the course required of all Law, Letters, and Society concentrators. Randel said that this was the first time he had heard of the incident.
At some points in the discussion, student frustration was readily apparent, especially when Klass or Randel did not provide concrete answerers.
The tension grew when the discussion turned to graduate student health care costs. Many of the attendees were graduate students, extremely frustrated with what they see as the University's unwillingness to work with the graduate student body, especially when it comes to this primary concern. When asked if the University would even communicate with the students by the end of the autumn quarter, Klass responded that he would try, but could not guarantee any timetable. He also noted that no one in the University wants to follow in the footsteps of Columbia University, which had to reduce the number of students in its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences by two-thirds, due to financial problems.
Klass noted the importance of forums like this one. "[These events] can be particularly helpful as a less-traditional mode of information dissemination that might pick up on important points that could slip through the cracks between our other efforts to keep everyone up to date," he said.
Klass also noted that he meets with students to "learn what is important to them and to do my best to address concerns, straighten out rumors, and provide direction on resolving important questions and issues."
Afterward, Klass and Randel said the event had met their expectations and that they were glad important concerns had been addressed. When asked whom he planned to vote for in Tuesday's presidential election, Randel said, "I have been a life-long member of the Democratic party, and am going to vote for Democrats in every possible election."
Student Government President Robert Hubbard, Graduate School Liaison to the Board of Trustees Jason Blumberg, and several other members of SGwhich sponsored the eventwere present.
Hubbard, a third-year in the College, voiced his concerns about students being deregistered from the Legal Reasoning class, mentioning that it happened to him last year. He said that he thought the event "went really well and a lot of important issues got discussed, but I feel like these events never run long enough and questions go unanswered."
Blumberg said all the problems addressed seemed administrative in nature, and ancillary to the academic focus of the University. He also said that he had brought up many of the problems to the Board of Trustees at their last meeting, and that the University was trying to address student concerns from the top down.