In the Pond Room of the Michigan Union, about a dozen randomly-selected students from around campus gathered Monday evening to discuss issues with University President Mark Schlissel and E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, during their monthly Fireside Chat.
After breaking the ice with light discussion about his plans to spend his first Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor and receiving Snapchat pictures from one of his daughters, Schlissel opened the floor up for questions.
Among a host of questions and concerns, how the University handles sexual misconduct was featured in Schlissel’s discussion.
In wake of the recent domestic violence charge involving the defensive end Frank Clark, students expressed issues regarding sexual assault and current campus policies. Though Michigan Coach Brady Hoke announced Monday that Clark was dismissed from the team, the circumstances surrounding former kicker Brendan Gibbons’ permanent separation from the University for violating the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy continue to raise concerns around campus for how sexual misconduct is handled at the University.
Schlissel acknowledged that steps are currently being taken to improve the campus community and work toward preventing sexual misconduct, as well as an examination of the current rules and procedures regarding sexual misconduct. Schlissel noted that all students — athletes or not — must be part of the effort to change the culture on campus to combat sexual assault.
Throughout the majority of the chat, many students inquired about the need for renovations on North Campus, as well as frustration with the consistency of northbound buses. With renovations currently underway on the West Quad Residence Hall and the recent completion of renovations to East Quad Residence Hall and South Quad Residence Hall, students feel North Campus is being overlooked.
“What I want is for when students hear that they’re on North Campus is to accept the inconvenience of it and the luck of the draw, but also to acknowledge that this is an opportunity for learning and growth,” said Business sophomore Aditi Padmanabhan. “Right now they just view it as a hindrance to what they want to do. I don’t want students to feel like just because where they live they’re so much more inconvenienced than everyone else.”
Both Schlissel and Harper responded to additional concerns regarding Bursley Dining Hall and other accommodations with assurances that these renovations are in the planning stages. Harper referred to plans for North Campus as well as Mary Markley Residence Hall as the “third round” of renovations and the next project in line after the completion of West Quad.
Following several other concerns raised with this issue, Schlissel also noted that the complaints of a vast difference in food quality between North and Central Campus dining halls will be examined.
Another issue students emphasized was underage and excessive drinking, which students said continues to be a major problem on campus. The students’ concern focused on the effectiveness of programs and heightened punishment to minimize risk in situations involving alcohol.
Harper responded by saying discussions about diminishing alcohol-related incidents are constantly occurring — in addition to the several programs incorporated into freshman orientation and University-sponsored sober events held throughout the year. Conversations about gradually increasing enforcement for underage drinking are also underway.
Schlissel was also open to suggestions from the audience about controlling alcohol abuse on campus. The possibility of parent intervention and targeting leaders in student organizations to promote a safe campus culture was also discussed.
“A lot of the policing can be done not from authority figures that work at the University, but authority figures within student organizations like fraternities, sports teams and clubs,” said Law student Greg Berman. “I think that sort of policing and prevention can be more effective for students that look up to and value the opinions of the upperclassmen that they interact with on a regular basis.”
Schlissel’s next Fireside Chat is scheduled for Dec. 8.