I love this university, but I feel a responsibility as a senior to identify some problems here, so that they might be corrected. Meliora must apply to all things,including the administration and campus life, not only academics. I’ve ranked these issues from easiest to hardest to correct.
First, you can’t buy Q-tips on campus. It sounds silly, but this basic item of hygiene isn’t sold in the Bookstore or Hillside. This is easy to fix so that students don’t need Q-tips mailed to them overnight. While on the subject of mail, the Package Office’s new package sorting system is a disaster, massively increasing the patron wait time and overwhelming the poor staff members. The Package Office should get a new system, or go back to the old system, or hire extra student employees to help.
Moving textbook sales off the River Campus to College Town does not bode well for postal services either. While science students, who need few books, won’t have to carry much back to campus from College Town, humanities and social science students, who need dozens of books, will be at a disadvantage. Who wants to carry twenty books from Mt. Hope to our campus? I fear that humanities and social science students will order more books online, further overloading the Package Office’s inadequate sorting system. The Package Office needs an overhaul, and the administration should rethink their choice to move textbooks to a distant location.
On campus, the much-hyped Rettner Hall is still not operational seven months after it opened. I know many engineering students who are frustrated that the shop lacks most of its tools. Meanwhile, humanities and audio engineering students are eager to use the recording studio. Students deserve an explanation about the delay, plus a realistic start date for the facilities. Otherwise, Rettner is a glorified atrium. By the way, building a recording studio on top of a shop seems misguided because the vibrations from the shop machines will likely interfere with the recordings being done upstairs.
There’s another sonic topic worth discussing – the lack of musical theatre on campus. Sure, there are OBOC revues every semester, Todd Union’s one musical every four years, and the musicals at Eastman. However, OBOC shows are often subpar, Todd musicals are avant-garde affairs that require very few cast members, and River Campus students aren’t allowed to act in Eastman shows. As such, UR, which includess Eastman which is nationally renowned for its musical education, is one of the only major universities that doesn’t produce proper musicals annually. This is embarrassing and odd, given our faculty and students’ musical strength.
The administration should also ponder its new push to expand the size of humanities classes. I’m all for more humanities students, but humanities classes cannot simply be blown up to fit a physics lecture hall. The humanities need seminar-style dialogue and close faculty-student interaction, so the classes must be small. If the River Campus ramps up humanities enrollment, there needs to be a concurrent effort to recruit more tenure-track humanities faculty (NOT adjuncts). Otherwise, humanities classes will become too large to be intellectually engaging environments for students.
Classrooms need to be fulfilling environments too, since there is no longer a weekend social scene on campus. Despite the need to abolish hazing, the administration’s crackdown on Greek life has eliminated most parties and other social events on campus. Combined with the loss of old Hillside Café (a social hub for drinkers and non-drinkers alike), the near-total lack of frat parties leaves little to do from Thursday night to Saturday night. The social scene is now off campus, removing the University’s immediate liability but also its ability to monitor parties lest they get out of hand. Additionally, with the rate and severity of crime increasing in surrounding neighborhoods, it is not good that students are going off campus in greater numbers. Drunken students traipsing home through rough neighborhoods are clear targets for robbery and assault. The administration therefore needs to rethink its policies on parties. Even if the crackdown on Greek life continues, the administration must persuade students to stay on campus, if for no other reason than to keep students safe.
Speaking of safety, the CARE Network is an excellent idea for promoting mental wellness, but it has a public relations problem. Most students have a negative opinion of the system. That disturbing Facebook page, UR Secrets, has published many posts criticizing the CARE Network. I can’t speak to the truth of these complaints, but the administration must address the frequent posts and ensuing social media chatter. If the complaints have merit, then changes should be made. If the complaints lack merit, then the University must improve its CARE Network advertising to combat the misinformation being spread about a vital community resource.
Tuition continues to skyrocket, passing the $60,000 mark for next year. I understand that the University needs annual revenue from tuition to pay for salaries, scholarships and other services, but the cost of tuition cannot keep going up forever. Well, I suppose it can, but only rich students would be able to afford it. There is a national threat of higher education becoming the next economic bubble – tuitions soaring higher and higher, students not enrolling in adequate numbers because of the costs, and finally schools shutting down or reducing their size drastically because of the lost income. The continued problem of tuition is therefore a potential Achilles’ heel. The administration must begin considering long-term tuition reduction or fixed tuition rates. By the way, there is another money topic worth mentioning – it is unfair that Eastman Ph.D. students do not receive stipends when all other University Ph.D. students receive stipends.
Finally, the relative racial separation of the student body is troubling. Outside of academics, jobs and certain clubs, black and white students do not interact socially in large numbers. The racial separation of our student body is the great elephant in the room – no one likes talking about it. Despite the administration’s diversity conferences and multicultural programming, the split between black and white social scenes endures. It is very sad that this should happen 50 years after the civil rights movement. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but the administration must consider how to bring together different ethnic and racial groups on campus.
There is much to admire about the UR, but there is work to be done to make Meliora a full reality.
Gorman is a member of
the Classof 2014.