A central proposition of the President”s Commission on the Undergraduate Experience is to increase contact between students and faculty. While this idea may have some merit, the role of the University is not to serve as a parental figure but to engender a spirit of independence amongst its undergraduates. Undergraduates must be allowed to grow and discover on their own terms. The University must carefully balance student independence with improved academic and social advising that encourages students to take advantage of the University”s many resources and events.

A vital aspect of the report is the proposal to overhaul the troubled advising system. The University”s complicated requirements for both graduation and concentrations make advising a critical student need. But too often advising stops at the rudimentary level of informing students of requirements and does not continue by developing a personal and intellectual relationship with advisees. Due to this lack of communication, advisers for the most part are often not able to tell students which classes would be personally enjoyable and interesting. The difficult course decisions that undergraduates are confronted with are all too often made with little support and personal consideration.

A possible threat to student independence is increasing the faculty presence in residence halls. This may strengthen the University”s in loco parentis role and endanger student autonomy. By attempting to mimic smaller institutions, the report is unable to realize that concepts successful at other universities will not necessarily be fruitful at the University.

The culture of the residence halls with student resident advisers providing support for younger students generates trust and respect amongst students. The residence halls also give students an opportunity to begin the transition towards self-reliance. Faculty in the residence halls may needlessly create conflict between students and faculty. The typical undergraduate”s life and that of a middle-age professor are completely incompatible. In addition, the proposal abounds with logistical complications. The size of the residence halls makes any attempt at this program almost infeasible. There would have to be a tremendous number of faculty participating in the program to have even a moderate impact. The residence halls are already above capacity and any effort to place faculty in the buildings will deprive undergraduates of rooms in the residence halls.

However, the report also contains many excellent ideas. Due to the University”s enormous size many opportunities go unnoticed by the student body. By better informing students of the University”s cultural events and study-abroad programs, increasing the interaction between academic and social activities and removing obstacles to interdisciplinary and inter-college education are all ways the University can better the undergraduate experience without compromising independence.

As the University attempts to alter the undergraduate experience over the next few years it must realize that an independent student body makes the University a dynamic and compelling institution. At the same time, the University must amend shortcomings that prevent students from attending and participating in the incredible variety of events that will improve both the intellectual and social experience of all students.

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