Undergrad Life, Culture Focus of Group Suggestions

A campus committee — charged by Chancellor Marye Anne Fox with evaluating the shortfalls of undergraduate life — released its first comprehensive report, which included many far-reaching goals that administrators hope will improve the student experience.

Members of the Undergraduate Student Experience and Satisfaction Subcommittee, including administrators, students and faculty, categorized their recommendations into nine “principles,” and discussed possible improvements to campus life. The group began its work earlier this year, based on a report released last year by a larger U.S.E.S. committee. Group members stated that many students found campus life and culture drab and “legalistic.”

“UCSD is lackluster,” the U.S.E.S. report stated. “The sense of community is weak; the campus lacks spirit, the campus climate is cold and nonwelcoming; and the campus does not have a commonly shared set of traditions and rituals.”

In its proposals, the subcommittee focused on defining a culture for UCSD. Some suggestions involved short-term goals such as decoration contests during Triton Spirit week. However, the bulk of the recommendations involved comprehensive projects that Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson said symbolize the university’s difficult mission of shaping campus culture.

“It is certainly the most important and complex task because it most actively engages all campus constituencies — faculty, students, staff, alumni and retirees — in ways that promote both the feeling and reality of being fully appreciated and contributing members of the UCSD community,” said Watson, who is charged with carrying out many of the committee’s recommendations.

A glaring problem with undergraduate life, the committee found, was the lack of student housing. Finding avenues for students to live oncampus would be the “most effective action UCSD can take to enhance a sense of community and school spirit,” the report stated.

The committee lauded the North Campus Transfer Housing project, approved last winter, as a step toward its goal of guaranteeing two years of on-campus housing for transfer students.

Group members also focused on housing for other students, and said that an four-year on-campus housing guarantee for all undergraduates is necessary to enhance campus life.

Completion of the goal will require more discussion, however, as administrators have no concrete plan for more extensive undergraduate housing.

Watson also asked a separate group to evaluate the impact of an influx of condominum conversions, which have recently forced many student renters out of their apartments.

Aside from housing, committee members said that a centralized student “village” could significantly boost university relations within and outside of the campus.

Currently, the idea is far from implementation because of financial constraints. The University of California Office of the President cannot provide any funding because of “current debt-capacity limitations,” and money from external sources is unavailable, the report stated.

Current efforts by the Student Affairs department to improve campus facilities would help the committee’s mission to develop student life, the report stated.

Combined with the multimillion-dollar expansion of Price Center, the department is also planning to develop a recreation area in east campus and create a softball stadium.

The U.S.E.S. committee also concentrated on current on-campus life, where students in the committee described heavy friction with residential security officers. In response, Revelle College Provost Daniel Wulbert began an RSO workgroup that explored officer relations with students and will present recommendations to Watson by next week.

“Although stories about RSO/student interactions appear to be pervasive, and although some students express strong resentment about RSO procedures, most of the information is anecdotal,” Wulbert said. “[T]he proposal being drafted may benefit [from] data collection on student complaints.”

UCSD’s six-college system was a major component of the committee’s suggestions to improve student spirit. To support the cause, Watson restored $237,000 in funding, cut in 2002, to the college budgets and the university’s Residential Life department.

Some of the committee’s recommendations were immediately executed after their release.

Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Mark I. Appelbaum began several efforts to strengthen connections between students and professors, including regular e-mails of “tips” and “good practices” that will be sent to faculty.

In addition, Appelbaum launched a program last quarter that allows students to personally dine with professors. Student and faculty response to the program, committee members said, was “enthusiastic.”

Readers can contact Charles Nguyen at [email protected].