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The Ivy Council Fall Policy Update!

12/03/2010

IVY COUNCIL

FALL POLICY UPDATE (2010)

The fall policy update is a compilation of the major policy changes/issues the student governments of each Ivy League institution have been working on for the fall semester. While this does not exemplify every single issue that has arisen, it grants a chance to see where everyone stands at far as issues that the different student bodies are tackling.

 

BROWN UNIVERSITY – Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS)

Policy Liaison – Stephanie Pak

Academic Advising
The UCS is seeking to improve advising for all students.  Currently, the Brown University administration provides introductory booklets and other materials for incoming first years; however, committee members are attempting to design a new booklet that better outlines the various resources on campus and their respective purposes – such as the exact role of an academic advisor or where to go if one’s academic advisor is unhelpful.  For upperclassmen, committee members are conducting research and an evaluation of several departments to raise awareness about the need for better advising in many departments. Surveys are being developed for distribution among departments to review successful advising methods for students who have declared a major, which will hopefully be implemented in other departments.  Both efforts have been coordinated thus far with communication between UCS members and the university administration, such as the Dean of the College.

Campus Life
Brown is experiencing a housing crunch, and several organizations including the Corporation – Brown’s highest governing body – have been debating how to solve this issue.  Several solutions such as converting auxiliary housing (Brown-owned off-campus locations) into dormitories have been offered, and the UCS has stayed active in voicing suggestions or opinions about potential changes.  The UCS has also contributed ideas about how to induce seniors to stay on campus instead of living off-campus, such as converting first years housing into upperclassmen-only suites or apartments. The UCS has developed a housing survey that will better voice the student living experience for considerations of future building projects.  The UCS discussed these aspects of undergraduate housing when a Young Alumni Trustee of the Corporation attended a UCS meeting.

Online Academic Services
The campus contract with myCourses, a Blackboard-like online academic service, is ending soon; the University is considering a switch to another program.  The UCS has participated in focus groups and forums to voice student opinions on what functions the new web system should provide. Although this project is not exclusively the responsibility of the UCS, it has stayed actively involved and aware of any developments as a source of advice.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY – Columbia College Student Council (CCSC)

Policy Liaison – Elias Boujaoude

Dining Services
Last year, Columbia’s Housing and Dining adjusted several aspects of the dining policy that many students have voiced concerns about this semester.  As per the new policy adjustment, JJ’s Place – a fast food dining venue on campus –  switched from allowing students to pay for items á la carte to requiring students to use a “meal swipe” for an “all you can eat” meal.  In addition, students are now not permitted to enter dining areas (which include a lounge with a TV and board games) unless they are willing to pay with a meal swipe.  Many upperclassmen who do not have meal plans voiced concerns to the CCSC because they felt as though this community building space was no longer open to them.  Furthermore, the main dining hall – John Jay – is closed on Friday nights and all-day Saturdays in order to cut costs.  As a result, students often have to wait in lines for up to an hour in the other, much smaller dining location – Ferris Booth Commons – on the weekends.  The CCSC has contacted all the appropriate parties in the Columbia Housing and Dining and has drafted several resolutions to alter the new dining policy.  A new resolution passed in the CCSC in late October, which included implementing a take-out window at JJ’s Place for á la carte purchases, as well as designating John Jay to be the dining location open on the weekends in place of Ferris Booth Commons. 

College Email Service
This year, the CCSC is attempting to convince administrators to adopt Gmail as the college email server, instead of the current internal system: Cub-Mail.  Students have requested this change for the past several years, due to unhappiness with Cub-Mail.  Advantages of Gmail include more user-friendly webpages, more storage space, and improved efficiency.  Actions towards this policy have included consulting the Ivy Council via its Policy Liaisons to ascertain which email systems are being used at peer institutions.  In addition, the CCSC has surveyed students at Barnard College – who were involved in their school’s recent switch to Gmail.  Although the planning for a change is currently being discussed, involving the Columbia graduate schools in the potential switch has complicated the issue.

Improving Student Study Space
Students have voiced concern over the dearth of available group-study space, especially during exam time, because of the high volume of graduate students that flood such facilities.  To resolve this issue, a team has been working in collaboration with the Dean of Student Affairs on a plan to reserve several rooms in Hamilton Hall for undergraduate group-study use.  Hamilton Hall was selected primarily because it is operated by Columbia College and will be able to restrict the space for undergraduates only.

CORNELL UNIVERSITY – Cornell University Student Assembly (SA)

Policy Liaison – Savion Agard

Response to Student Health Challenges
After the tragic deaths of members of the Cornell community, the SA, in collaboration with the Student Trustee and administration, sponsored an event last year called Lift Your Spirits. This year, the event was been recreated as Cornell Caring Community Celebration, which was held on November 11th. The event has become a semi-annual event, occurring every semester at Cornell.
Student Safety
On Cornell’s campus last year, there were five forced sexual offences reported to the authorities.  Although, Cornell has an extremely effective and violence-conscious campus police force, students have expressed concerns about the proposition of waiting several minutes for a police officer to respond, in times of emergency.  Thus, the SA began discussing a recommendation that for personal protection students be authorized to carry pepper spray – which is banned by Campus Police.  After some debate, the SA passed a resolution formally asking the police chief to change the policy.  However, University President Skorton, in a letter to the SA, overruled the recommendation and endorsed the ban on pepper spray – citing concern of misuse and the potential health hazards (allergic reactions, etc.).

Organized Late-Night Programming
A meeting between members of the administration and the Student Assembly executive board recognized the lack of university-sponsored late night programming on campus; late night programming constitutes 10:30pm-1:00am on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. There are a number of obstacles, including the lack of venues for this type of activity.  An initiative to expand access and sponsorship of the programming is already moving forward.  An Ad-Hoc committee has been created, and it is in the process of looking to create a space specifically for late-night programming on campus.

DARTMOUTH COLLEGE – Student Assembly (SA)

Policy Liaison – Nicholas Judson

Student Assembly Reorganization
The 2010 Fall Term is the first term of the SA’s transition from programming to issue-based committees. This term’s committees – Academic Affairs, External Relations, Accessibility, Sustainability, Diversity and Community Affairs, and Student Life – have been restructured to focus solely on researching and recommending school-wide policy to the administration, thereby reducing the amount of programming operated by the Student Assembly.  The reorganization is off to a good start, and each committee is making impressive progress in their respective subjects. 

Freshmen Advising

A committee of first-year students is currently studying how advisors and freshmen students interact during the entire first year. The committee is looking into the process of matching advisors and students, as well as critiquing the mandatory meetings between advisors and advisees.  Additionally, the committee is considering a pre-matriculation required reading program to integrate more of the faculty – especially the advising program – into the shared readership program already established among incoming freshmen students.  After the committee finishes internal researching, they will most likely be requesting information on the freshmen advising programs at the other Ivies, via the Ivy Council.

NEASC Reaccreditation

Dartmouth had its site visit for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Reaccreditation this November.  The Student Assembly was actively involved in planning a student forum, which involved a panel of committee members asking questions of students in a public forum. The goal was to attract a large audience to the forum to give the committee a variety of answers to the questions posed.

HARVARD COLLEGE – Undergraduate Council (UC)

Policy Liaison – Nicholas Oo

Student Initiated Programming (SIP) Fund
The UC created the SIP fund with the objective of fostering student community through participation in social, cultural, and educational activities.  By tailoring a successful model for funding of student-initiated events from the Freshman Dean’s Office, the UC created the SIP fund in order to promote student initiated programs within House (dormitory) public spaces in order to provide a safe and inclusive environment for student activities. In short, it is one way to combat Harvard’s longstanding problem of the lack of social space for students. Additionally, success of the SIP fund depends on collaboration with the House Masters who have the final say on the use of House spaces.

School Spirit
It has long been argued that much structural impediments (decentralized communities, lack of social spaces, etc) have hindered the greater development of school spirit.  Thus, the UC has been emphasizing supporting events that promote greater school spirit among students.  Recent initiatives have included both passing-out Harvard t-shirts and cooperating with local businesses to provide food and beverages at sporting events.  While these initiatives have found success, the UC still seeks to discover the concrete reasons impeding natural school spirit.  Thus, the UC, in conjunction with the Institute of Quantitative Social Sciences, is releasing a Social Life survey to investigate the issue.
J-Term Programming:
The idea of having January Term programming for undergraduates has been in the works for a few years. Finally, the administration rearranged the calendar the last academic year to allow for an optional winter activities session (intercession), but due to budget constraints from the financial crisis, no activities were sponsored.  In response, the UC lobbied for the administration to create an Optional Winter Activities Week (OWAW) to allow for student-initiated J-term programming. The UC allocated $20,000 to fund student groups and individual students who want to organize programs during this week and approved approximately 30 grants.  Additionally, the UC has been working in conjunction with the Harvard Office of Career in promoting and implementing Winternships – a program in which Harvard alumni provide externships to students during the January Term in various locations and in varying lengths. By a conservative estimate, 200 externships are already in place.

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA – Undergraduate Assembly (UA)

Policy Liaison – Jonathan Hu

Public Policy (DREAM ACT)
In November, the UA debated and ultimately passed a DREAM Act resolution – in response to the proposed Congressional Act of the same name.  The UA’s resolution officially commends university President Gutmann for her advocacy and urges her to continue to reach out to peer institutions; in addition, the act  authorizes a signed letter of support to be mailed to the Representatives and Senators of Pennsylvania – which endorses the breakdown of educational barriers, the creation of an educational environment that supports diversity and acceptance, and the creation of an atmosphere where all competent and willing students can pursue a higher education.

Student Cultural Life
Also in November, the UA voted to fund $951 to Penn’s sole undergraduate Lunar New Year celebration, led by a team of dedicated individuals, including UA member Amanda Young. The organization that has traditionally hosted the event suddenly pulled-out, and upon learning of this, an ad-hoc group of students immediately met to ensure that the most important celebration in many countries makes a strong presence at Penn.

Student Security
Currently, access to residential facilities requires swiping a Penn ID as well as the input of a four-digit code, usually the last four digits of a student’s Social Security number.  UA associate member Colin Kavanaugh and the Student Life committee are working with the University to prevent identity fraud by promoting the opportunity for students to change their four-digit code away from the current Social Security Number-based default.

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY – Undergraduate Student Government (USG)

Policy Liaison – Kees Thompson

Princeton 2014 Project
Beginning with just a conceptual idea in the spring, the USG (with help from student web-designers) built Princeton2014.com over the summer.  Launched before Princeton freshmen arrived on campus for orientation, the interactive website provides essential information for members of the Class of 2014 on acclimating to life at Princeton.  Beyond just move-in information, the website contained information meant for freshmen’s first, second, sixth, and twelfth weeks on campus.  With most of the content written by the Class of 2013 senators, the website was extremely beneficial to the freshmen who used it. Plans have already been set to continue the project for the Class of 2015, adding academic advising advice, especially so freshmen may begin to build their class schedules before they arrive on campus.

Athletic Event Attendance
Due to a lack of school spirit and student attendance at sporting events, as perceived by the USG and student body at large via online survey, an ad hoc Athletics Committee was established in the spring to address the issue.  In addition to planning and working tailgates for a number of events, the committee began to work more directly with the Athletics Department to tackle the issue.  The result was for USG to reinforce and greater publicize an already in-place program – a reward system based off of points gained from attending sporting events.  With 1 point earned for popular events and 2 points for those needing more support, the Athletic Department and USG will give out prizes to those with the highest number of points.  The results of the greater publicity of this program are being watched by the USG over the course of the semester to gauge the effectiveness of the program.

USG Accountability
In October, the USG released its comprehensive Mid-Term Report, which outlined and documented all of its work during the spring semester.  The 29-page report was the most extensive ever compiled by the USG – complete with charts (such as the Treasurer’s budget) and pictures (documenting various USG events).  It also contained personal reports by the heads of all of the USG Subcommittees – allowing students to hear and see directly from their student government leaders about the successes and challenges of the first-half of their term.  The USG aims to make this report the new standard expected from the USG because of the immense credibility and accountability it adds to the organization, despite its obviously arduous compilation process.

YALE UNIVERSITY – Yale College Council (YCC)

Policy Liaison – Don Li

Foreign Language Certificates
Because of the upcoming routine review of Yale’s academics this year, the YCC is assembling reports and requests regarding several academic topics of interest to the student body.  One of the most targeted aspects is the implementation of Foreign Language certificate programs like those that are present for most of the other Ivies.  The goal is to provide academic recognition that would encourage students who wish to take some intermediate amount of foreign language that is more than just introductory courses, but not enough to satisfy a major; this is especially popular because Yale does not offer minors.  Based on surveys within Yale and requests for information from the other Ivies via the Ivy Council, a final proposal is currently being developed.  Additionally, the YCC is considering recommending a change in how lab courses are recognized at Yale, so that they reflect the amount of credits/work that is given for lab classes at other universities.

Relationship with New Haven Community
Due to a much-publicized encounter between Yale students and New Haven police at a local club, the YCC has been investigating ways to improve the relationship between Yale and the community.  To this end, several actions have been taken, including initiating study breaks with members of the New Haven Police Department in order to promote mixing of students with the community.  The goal is to build a more trusting working relationship with the city to try to prevent future incidents, as well as to provide an avenue of communication in case of future incidents.  YCC also worked with the Yale administration and New Haven Police in order to try to sort-out the aftermath of the initial incident.

Career Services Improvements
YCC has been working with administration and Undergraduate Career Services (UCS) in order to improve services and opportunities. Initiatives have included bringing resume editors to the residential colleges so that students will have easier access to these resources and extending career-shadowing programs like Bulldogs across America.  Upcoming proposals and recommendations will be based on surveys of the student body and scheduled meetings with administrators.

 








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