February 27, 2009

Grad students ask for more interaction with undergrads

Eight graduate students gathered Thursday to discuss their role on campus at a meeting hosted by Assistant Vice President for Student Life Bill Michel and ORCSA Director Sharlene Holly, part of an ongoing series of discussions about student life.

Attendees spoke on the relationship between graduate students and undergrads: where and when students meet, how to support more interaction between the two groups, and how to structure co-curricular support and funding for graduate and undergraduate RSOs.

Michel said he expected to recommend streamlining the process for organizing events and reserving space. He also described a new “combination C-Shop and Maroon Mart” to open in the lower level of the new dorm next year, which he hopes will provide space for both graduate students and undergrads to associate south of the Midway.

Some students called for more interaction between students. Third-year anthropology graduate student Joe Bonni, who plans to T.A. for undergraduate courses in coming quarters, said that graduate students and undergraduates have much to offer each other. “I’ve learned how the Core works. Our experiences, fears, hopes, are all strikingly similar,” Bonni said. “It’s been very enriching.”

Others agreed, saying they felt that speaking with undergraduates is part of the U of C experience. But attendees said groups often self-segregate, and opportunities for casual chat are limited to coffee shops.

Michel also asked for recommendations on how to administer RSOs. Currently, all RSOs are required to allow both undergrads and grads to join, so groups seeking to form an RSO that already has a graduate or undergraduate counterpart are sometimes turned down. Some called for a specific adviser for each graduate department to help students navigate the University bureaucracy.

Graduate students liked the idea of making it easier for individuals with an idea to organize an event, rather than being required to associate with an RSO.

The discussion fed Michel’s ongoing study of extracurricular life at the U of C, intended to explore student life outside the classroom. The University conducted a similar study in the 1990s, the recommendations of which shaped the Reynolds Club renovations as well as improvements to CAPS and the UCSC.

Michel has been working with student leaders and on-campus groups to get feedback on student life for almost a year. After several student groups and staff further review a draft, the final study could be ready for presentation by the middle of spring quarter.

“The purpose of the study is long-term,” he said. “I believe that we’ve made lots of improvements to student life over the past 15 years…. since then we have not taken a comprehensive look across all these areas to think about how we support organized student activities.”