Undergraduate culture ‘legalistic,’ report finds

    A yearlong effort by the 16-member Undergraduate Student Experience and Satisfaction Committee found that UCSD undergraduate student life is lacking in several areas, including community and student-faculty relationships.

    Student testimony printed in the report addressing UCSD culture included emphasis on Residential Security Officers, which one student stated as having “Nazi-like sense[s] of duty.”

    In order to improve campus lifestyle, which USESC members called “legalistic,” the report made multiple recommendations, including increasing the number of events where alcohol is permitted and generating campuswide discussion on the topic.

    A recommendation that could radically improve student experience is on-campus housing, according to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, who identified undergraduates as a key area of emphasis upon her arrival last year.

    “I’ve always been a proponent of better housing options for students,” Fox said. “Students who are on campus longer feel connected to UCSD in a way that ultimately leads to a better collegiate experience.”

    The USESC surveys echoed Fox’s feelings, reporting that commuters were 20 percent more likely to feel secluded from campus life than those who lived on campus. Currently, the university guarantees two years of on-campus housing for incoming freshmen, which the committee hopes to expand into a four-year promise. However, both the committee and Fox acknowledged major hurdles in the plans for a more extensive undergraduate housing plan.

    “We’ve been searching for ways to move forward in housing plans, but we have this problem with debt capacity,” Fox said. “The question is, ‘How do we match our budget to implementation?’”

    Currently, the best option under consideration is to go to a third-party builder, Fox said. Meanwhile, the committee produced no concrete suggestions about how to develop a four-year housing guarantee. General recommendations by the committee are evidence that there should be, and will be, further work on issues raised by the report’s findings, according to committeemember and Associate Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Education Mark I. Appelbaum.

    “There’s no silver bullet, and we make it obvious throughout the whole report that there is no cure-all method for our campus,” he said. “While there are many items that can be immediately addressed, there is much more work that has to be done through ongoing discussions and tasks to be fulfilled.”

    As of now, specific areas are not important, as the campus should first address broader principles of things, according to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson, who, along with former Acting Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs David R. Miller and former Vice Chancellor of External Relations James M. Langley, was charged with assembling the committee.

    “It’s important not to pigeonhole results and recommendations that the committee released,” Watson said. “Subtleties are critical, but discussion is most important to have in a campus community before we move forward.”

    While some members of the A.S. Council expressed enthusiasm at the committee’s findings, others were leery of the possibility of tangible results from the report.

    “I feel that the establishment of this committee was a step in the right [direction],” Thurgood Marshall College Junior Senator Jason Hoskins stated in an e-mail. “It involved current students, as well as alumni and staff. However, I don’t feel that the report as a whole is a concrete step in any direction. The truth of the matter is that UCSD is stretched to the limits of what we can expand/improve on campus.”

    Fox, however, said that the report would not be “shelved away,” but would be part of an ongoing effort underway by multiple administrative offices.

    The committee itself recommended action by the external relations, student affairs and academic affairs departments on the report’s findings. The student affairs office is in the process of forming committees to address appropriate specific recommendations, according to Watson.

    “The real value of our report on undergraduate life is yet to come,” he said. “It is not what’s been done at this point, because we have the task of integrating everything we’ve discovered into campus life and actively engaging the principles we have established for ourselves.”

    Although it is not yet a certainty, each department plans to publicize the results of individual committees quarterly, Watson said.

    The report also contained “key recommendations,” which covered all of the needs the committee felt should have been addressed. One recommendation to “address the need for a greater physical, social and emotional community” included proposals to enhance campus shuttle systems, while another encouraged improvement of student-faculty relations.

    The findings, released last week, were produced through committee dialogue with students and campus groups. The committee organized its findings into nine basic principles.

    “This wasn’t just data collection from papers,” committee co-chair and Sixth College Provost Gabriele Weinhausen said. “[USESC members] went out and asked students, faculty and staff the daring questions, which led to more questions, which led to even more questions. In doing that, we exposed many weak points of the campus, which was a novel and very powerful way of approaching such a report.”

    The report’s principles include campus “support of the transition to adulthood” and “focus on student housing options” for undergraduates, who account for roughly 80 percent of UCSD’s student population.

    To publish the report, USESC met weekly as a focus group and discussed plans and conclusions, according to member and Revelle College A.S. representative Jared Feldman. The committee also met with 20 campus groups, including the A.S. Council, every college council and the Interfraternity Council to hear concerns and suggestions on what issues to include in the report. Data were also vital to the process, Feldman said, explaining that the committee used statistics from various surveys in the report. In addition, USESC accepted any UCSD student’s comments through a Web site.

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