Student satisfaction lags Riverside, Irvine campuses

    UCSD students are less satisfied with their university experience than counterparts at UC Irvine and UC Riverside, findings from recent studies by the campus’ Committee on Undergraduate Student Experience and Satisfaction show.

    Organized by Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, the committee comprises two co-chairs, student representatives from all six colleges and alumni, who consult on strategies to elevate student satisfaction at UCSD.

    Committee co-chair and 1998-99 A.S. president Joe Leventhal said the campus’ low numbers could be due to a lack of student and faculty interaction inside and outside of the classroom.

    “Students don’t feel as connected to faculty at UCSD,” Leventhal said. “The students are intimidated by the faculty, and the faculty think the students don’t want to be there.”

    By comparison, UC Riverside economics professor Gary Dymski said relations between students and faculty were closer-knit on his campus.

    “You can get personal attention [from faculty] and their doors are always open,” Dymski said. “Many students have had good working relationships and have benefited from these.”

    Another reason for the discrepancy in student satisfaction could be negative attitudes of students entering UCSD, according to Leventhal.

    “UCSD is not their first choice, so they’re coming in with a negative attitude,” Leventhal said. “And then sometimes they don’t get their first choice out of the six colleges.”

    Overall, Leventhal said the committee is gathering positive data.

    “Our retention rate is great,” Leventhal said. “Students aren’t leaving because they’re unhappy. They’re doing well academically.”

    But UCSD’s strong focus on academics may be hurting its reputation, according to A.S. Presidential Chief of Staff Jared Feldman, the Revelle College representative to the committee. Academics are excessively emphasized on campus, and social and extracurricular activities tend to be overlooked, he said.

    “It has to do with the incoming student’s perception,” Feldman said. “It looks like UCSD students just study all the time.”

    While UCSD is known for its outstanding academics, student complaint topics range from the safety on campus to how students feel about the way they are treated and respected.

    “We look as good as UC Berkeley and UCLA academically,” Sixth College Provost and committee co-chair Gabriele Wienhausen said. “But the campus climate doesn’t look as good.”

    According to Matt Xavier, committee member and UCSD alumnus, students feel isolated.

    “They don’t feel a sense of belonging,” he said. “Only 49 percent of students feel attached to this campus.”

    According to the committee, one potential source of unity could be an increase in the number of students attending sports games. One reason for UCSD’s high student dissatisfaction may be a lack of school spirit, so the committee is working toward getting students excited about sports events, members said.

    In addition, Feldman said, the school needs to change its current approach to athletics. Such competitions as the annual Unolympics pit colleges against each other, instead of against other schools.

    “We need to refocus the energy,” Feldman said. “We have colleges competing against each other, but we need to funnel the energy all about UCSD. That’s the game: UCSD against everybody.”

    Wienhausen said students also feel that it is difficult to come together and socialize on campus. The reasons are likely a shortage of on-campus housing and lack of affordable off-campus housing. In addition, the scarcity of parking spaces at UCSD makes it difficult for students to meet and interact on campus, she said.

    “People want big events where students can socialize and hang out,” Wienhausen said. “We need chance encounters in a new environment that’s funky and fun. But do we have that? No.”

    Committee members are also working with various student and campus organizations to gather data.

    “We’re still doing a lot of investigation,” Feldman said. “We’re already speaking with student organizations to find out what we can do differently in student life.”

    A final report with recommendations from the committee will be released by 10th week of spring quarter.

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