LSA leaders hope for collaboration

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 2, 2012

Last night, student leaders from programs within LSA gathered to discuss ways for students to better connect with faculty and administrators in an effort to increase transparency.

At the event, hosted by LSA Student Government at North Quad Residence Hall, LSA Dean Terrence McDonald addressed and answered questions from a group of about 25 students. The discussion covered topics including sustainability, diversity, professor evaluations, state funding for the University and recent accomplishments within LSA.

As the largest college at the University with nearly 20,000 students, McDonald said the size of the student body can present special obstacles.

“The things that we worry about and think about the most and wonder if we’re doing well enough (with) is access to courses, and frankly information about opportunities (for students),” McDonald said. “These are two things that are affected by the size.”

LSA-SG president Anne Laverty said she hoped the event helped to improve the relationship between students and LSA administration.

“(We want) to bridge that disconnect between students and administrators,” she said. “(People) want to connect.”

LSA senior Eman Abdelhadi, president of the Muslim Student Association, said the dialogue was especially relevant to the Arab and Muslim students studying liberal arts. She said many Arab and Muslim students feel they can only study engineering or take pre-med courses.

“Without these types of dialogues, you have whole pockets of communities on campus who just don’t know about the initiatives that the administration is putting on for them,” she said. “I think that's problematic for both ends.”

Abdelhadi added that University administrators need to do a better job of advertising the value of LSA degrees.

“When a student graduates from a top five department and yet feels like their degree will not take them anywhere in life, then that’s a huge failure,” she said. “(Administrators) communicate to students the value of that degree and to instill in them that confidence to know that that's a degree that's sought after in the world.”

Philip Deloria, LSA associate dean of undergraduate education, and Marjorie Horton, assistant dean for undergraduate education in LSA, also spoke to the meeting’s attendees. Deloria stressed the importance of improving the relationship between administrators and students.

Deloria specifically mentioned the Sophomore Initiative — a program tailored to LSA sophomores that includes courses and a special CTools site — and how LSA used e-mail listservs to inform students about exclusive courses, though few were aware of these efforts.

Deloria added that he is looking for new ways to reach out to students, including improving the presence of LSA deans online.

“All the websites in the dean’s office are a total mess,” he said.

Deloria said he would also consider obtaining a list of LSA students’ phone numbers. He said the list could be used to send out short, important text messages to students that would lead them to a simple, easy-to-use website, adding that access and use of the list would need to be extremely limited to prevent abuse.

After the event, both McDonald and Laverty agreed that it was a productive discussion.

“People are interested in this and want more conversation,” Laverty said. “Hopefully this will be something student government will do more of.”