UR President Joel Seligman held a town hall meeting on Tuesday, March 31, to discuss past and current developments in University infrastructure. Seligman also discussed the recent announcement of a tuition increase for the coming year and the recent controversy surrounding offensive dialogue on Yik Yak.
After his presentation, Seligman received audience questions; if he could not address an individual problem, he encouraged students to email him so that he could put them in contact with the appropriate people. Students’ questions dealt with issues of racial tension, sustainability, tuition and community engagement.
Seligman discussed the University’s Capital Campaign and its achievement in raising $1.2 billion. He then listed several initiatives of the University, which include but are not limited to: 17 new majors; the Eastman School of Music’s continual top rankings; new buildings such as Goergen, LeChase and Rettner Halls; improvements in dining; the renovation of the Fredrick Douglass Building; and the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center.
According to Seligman, a new student dorm that would be closer to athletic facilities and that could house some athletic resources of its own is currently in the planning stages.
Seligman also mentioned in-progress and recent projects, including the Golisano Children’s Hospital, Saunders Research Building at URMC, College Town’s new retail establishments, Mt. Hope Lofts, the new parking garage and plans to renovate the River Campus Libraries and add a new Humanities Center.
Seligman said that UR plans to focus on four major areas.
“We are ready for the next level,” he said, referring to a University initiative called “The Next Level,” which aims to continue improving the University, especially within the four areas defined as Data Science, Humanities and Performing Arts, Neuroscience and Revitalization of Our Community.
“We want all of you to be exposed to the full breadth of what education is supposed to be,” Seligman said, emphasizing the importance of incorporating the Humanities in a research institution like UR to preserve what he called “the liberal arts ideal.” He discussed the University’s plans to create a new Humanities Center as well as to reach out to surrounding arts locations in Rochester, such as the George Eastman House, the Memorial Art Gallery and local theater and music venues.
After discussing “The Next Level,” Seligman shifted gears. “I’ve been appalled […] by some of the absolutely disgraceful messages that have been circulated through Yik Yak and also through other means,” he said.
Seligman read aloud a statement in response to the offensive comments posted online. The statement will be released to the student body on April 2 rather than on April 1, to avoid any implications that the statement is anything but completely serious.
In addressing the abusive language that students post on anonymous social media sites, Seligman said, “It is like hiding under a rock.”
Seligman moved on to discuss the 2.8 percent increase in tuition, stating that UR “take[s] a little bit of pride” in the fact that the percentage of increase is smaller than it has been in a number of years.
One student asked if Seligman believed tuition was too high, asserting that it was disingenuous to call the increase “small.” Seligman responded to student questions about tuition by explaining that in order to be on par with peer institutions, or other private research universities, UR must continue hiring and compensating the best faculty it can hire.
He quoted T.S. Eliot to express the need to hire faculty members when competing institutions are making offers, saying, “April is the cruelest month.”
One student expressed his disillusionment with tuition increases, and Seligman asked Dean of Admissions Jonathan Burdick, who was in the audience, to speak with the student privately after the meeting.
Seligman also said UR’s tuition is average among peer institutions, and he referred to his own post-graduation debt to argue that students not only pay for the best faculty the University can offer, but also the experience and career eligibility that comes with it.
Seligman concluded the meeting by assuring the audience that, although it was a brutal February, “spring is coming.”
McAdams is a member of
the class of 2017.