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Student Life and Activities Committee
After a good start, the Student Life and Activities Committee’s (SLAC) activities tapered off in the latter part of the fall 2012 and especially the spring 2013 semester. This was partly because of scheduling difficulties—members of the committee were not available at mutually convenient times, and it turned out to be impossible to gather quorum—and partly because, as in 2011-12, the committee continued to struggle to determine the nature and feasibility of its charge.
The following were the most significant activities of SLAC as a whole, as well as of the chair of the committee and select members:
- Early in its deliberations, the committee reiterated the conclusion of the previous year’s committee that a systematic approach to intercollegiate athletics is beyond the scope of the committee if its mandate is to be concerned more broadly with student life/activities on campus. The committee observed that the athletics council already serves an important role in this regard and urged Faculty Council to rethink this aspect of the committee’s charge.
- Chair and willing members of the committee met with Michael Morton, president of the Senate of College Councils, and discussed proposed changes to the University Honor Code on Monday, November 5; those present at the meeting endorsed the draft of the proposed changes.
- Chair and willing members of the committee met twice with Randa Ryan, senior associate athletics director, during spring 2013 to determine what kind of fruitful relationship might be created between athletics student services and SLAC. It does seem that the systematic advising and mentoring approach taken on by athletics to ensure success for “academically at-risk” students could be very useful for other students on campus who have similar “risk factors” and thus perhaps even improve four-year graduation rates. Faculty Council might be helpful in advocating for such resources to be available more widely, but this would require financial investment. It was not clear to the SLAC leadership whether this kind of recommendation (and especially a study to back such a recommendation) was within the scope of SLAC.
- Early in its deliberations, the committee discussed how to gain a systematic understanding of student concerns for the committee to have a real role in addressing them. Two avenues of investigation were chosen, though neither was pursued effectively, because of the inability to reach a quorum:
- Make use of the Student Engagement at Research Universities (SERU) survey; Dr. Gale Stuart visited SLAC at its October meeting to present some of the ways that SERU data might be helpful to the committee’s discussions. The goal to have SLAC brainstorm how SERU findings could help direct the committee’s efforts was stymied by unsuccessful attempts to reach a quorum following the October meeting.
- Draw from the stated goals of student leadership (recently elected, as well as “losing parties” from the past couple of election cycles) likewise to determine student priorities and work with student groups to determine how faculty can help advance those priorities. Student members of SLAC provided some initial links to materials connected to stated student leadership goals; the intention for SLAC to discuss how faculty might support such goals was likewise thwarted by the inability to reach a quorum for subsequent meetings.
- Discussions of a subset of the committee with Randa Ryan made it clear that there have been a number of task forces and committees on undergraduate student life (including athletics) in the past, mostly convened by the President and the University administration rather than Faculty Council. Those committees have made recommendations, but it is currently unclear to SLAC which of those recommendations have been implemented and why others have been rejected. Unless SLAC has a clearer sense of what has already been proposed and accomplished, it seems that we may be duplicating previous efforts.
The SLAC chair for 2013-14, Chandra Muller, has pledged to follow up with some of these issues in the coming year, also in conjunction with Martha Hilley, current chair of the Faculty Council and also chair elect of SLAC in 2013-14 (thus to be chair of SLAC in 2014-15) in the hopes of providing a charge to the committee that might revitalize its purpose and perhaps assist with bringing committee members together for meetings.
Andrew Dell'Antonio, chair