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Smelstor Discusses Issues With Students at Roundtable |
MAILED: March 13, 1998|
EAU CLAIRE - Financial aid, academic advising, faculty hiring and diversity were among the topics discussed Monday (March 9) during the student Roundtable discussion with Interim Chancellor Marjorie Smelstor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The monthly give-and-take session is an informal time for students to tell the university's chief administrator what's on their minds and talk over various issues.
Following up on concerns raised last month about the financial aid process, Smelstor sought student input on several ideas related to the financial aid process. Reporting that the Financial Aid Office was recently remodeled to create a friendlier environment, she said Financial Aid Director Kathleen Sahlhoff will be working on new ways of communicating with students and their parents to help make them aware of deadlines and work through the process more efficiently. An open house in the Financial Aid Office and a peer-mentoring program were other suggestions for providing students with opportunities to get their questions answered.
Smelstor also outlined several recent advising initiatives. Action by the University Senate last year now requires advisers to contact their advisees by letter at the beginning of the academic year. "Advisers are initiating the letters, but unfortunately they are getting very little response from their advisees," Smelstor noted.
The College of Arts and Sciences is discussing several issues related to advising. Susan Tarnowski, assistant dean of Arts and Sciences, said the College, in response to student interest, is exploring a pilot program using peer (student) advisers in the academic departments.
Also under discussion is the possibility of using a slightly different implementation procedure for the catalogue policy indicating that students must see an adviser until they have earned 60 credits, and a recommendation that students must see advisers when declaring or changing majors. Training for new faculty advisers including the use of current technology is also under consideration.
Several students voiced skepticism about the 60-credit requirement. "Creating more rules and regulations never seems to solve this type of situation," said Kevin Gatzlaff, former Student Senate president.
A faculty/student team approach to advising was suggested, and Tarnowski reported that a communication and journalism student was developing such a pilot program for that department.
Student Senator Matt Ludt said the practice of involving students in sample lectures and other presentations, which are often part of the departmental interview process for prospective faculty, should be encouraged throughout the university. Smelstor said she would follow up on that request with Interim Provost Miller and the deans.
Student Senator Andy Albarado questioned Smelstor about her reaction to the proposed United Council recommendations concerning the Quality for Diversity plan for the UW System, which is currently under review by the Board of Regents. She said her assessment of the UC recommendation was very similar to the resolution unanimously adopted by the Student Senate last week, which calls into question the recommendation that 20 percent of students and 25 percent of faculty be of color.
"Let me make it perfectly clear that we cannot retreat from our commitment to diversity in the UW System, and we need to continue our progress at UW-Eau Claire," she said. "However, I am opposed to quotas and cannot support goals that are unrealistic." She noted that in 1997-98 there were 1,720 high school graduates of color in Wisconsin who were qualified to enter the UW System, meaning they had at least a 2.5 grade point average. The UW System enrolled a total of 1,900 new students of color this year. "When you look at those facts, it seems clear that the 20 percent goal is unattainable."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: March 17, 1998