Tuesday, November 13, 2012

OMSA Advisory Board Update by Alexandra Halladay

For our second Advisory Board Meeting on October 23rd, 2012, we began by discussing briefly a new Campus of Student Life initiative that is taking shape this year; the Campus Dialogue Fund is a new committee on campus that will distribute funds and approve proposals for speakers on campus. The Campus Dialogue Fund is a new program that provides annual funding of $15,000 to bring speakers that address issues relevant to campus, including: education, access, disparity, racial bias, class privilege, justice, equality, healthcare, housing, income inequality, religious diversity, non-partisan political topics, immigration, LGBTQ equality, and more! You can find a more in depth description of the roles of committee members and the application below, the application is due November 16th, 2012 so be sure to hurry!


We continued discussion by briefly discussing a few topics including the recent Fisher v. Texas brief and the possibility that the University had released an amici brief on the case (this topic was covered by The Maroon), and an incident involving a UChicago professor who made despairing remarks about women on Facebook. After, the Vice President of Campus Life and Student Services, Karen Coleman, joined us. Our conversation with Karen lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. In that time we voiced concerns, asked questions, and advised her on student perspectives on campus.

The Office of Campus and Student Life, for those that don’t know, includes about twenty various offices including the Bursar, OMSA, LGBTQ, International Student Affairs, UCSC, CPO, Student Emergency Affairs, Student Health and Counseling Services to name a few (a full list can be found here: http://csl.uchicago.edu/programs-services). Karen expressed that some of her primary goals in meeting with us as a board was to help her further understand how students are experiencing the campus and the community and how the Office for Campus Life and Student Services can best grow and be improved. The board raised some interesting questions about student housing which Karen shared with us that currently, the University is able to house around 2,700 students of our 5,500. She is hoping to be able to house around 70% of the student body over time and expressed a goal of attracting third and fourth year students to remain in on-campus housing.

Our board also wanted to understand how Karen and her team were gaining understanding about Student Life and what assessment tools they were using. We were informed that their primary way of maintaining communication with the student body is through groups such as the Advisory Board and communication with Program Directors who are more frequently in dialogues with students. Our discussion with Karen lead into ideas for alternative methods to assess student life on campus, her own ideas about responsibility to students of color on campus, student thoughts on Greek life and its role on campus, and finally reflections on the interactions of the neighborhood and the University.

The stimulating and informative conversations we had with Karen indicate that the need and desire to have these meetings with her are something we will pursue quarterly. If you have thoughts feel free to approach board members and share opinions with them to relay to the board!