Faculty Senate hears report on new residence life program
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2:54 p.m., Feb. 13, 2009----Students are well aware of the voluntary nature of the new Residence Life Plan, according to the results of a recently released survey conducted by the Student Life Committee of the UD Faculty Senate.

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The survey findings were presented by Matthew Robinson, chairperson of the Senate Student Life Committee, during a meeting of the Faculty Senate, held Monday, Feb. 9, in Gore Hall.

Robinson said that committee assessed the implementation of the Fall 2008 Residence Life Plan that was approved by the Faculty Senate in the spring of 2008.

The new plan, which stresses voluntary participation except for mandatory meetings held during the opening of the fall semester to address security and safety concerns, replaced the former residence life program that was canceled in fall 2007 by UD President Patrick T. Harker.

“We held a series of open forums and sent out a survey that addressed 10 key issues, including the voluntary nature of the program, as well as privacy and rights being respected,” Robinson said. “The responses support the data collected from an online survey.”

About 51 percent of the 6,769 residence hall students responded to survey questions sent out in December 2008, Robinson said.

The survey indicated that 92.2 percent agreed or strongly agreed that attending residence hall programs is voluntary, while 2.9 percent disagreed somewhat or strongly, and 5.8 percent of respondents expressed no opinion on the question.

About 80 percent of survey participants agreed or strongly agreed that residence life staff member respected student's personal beliefs, opinions, values and privacy, while 2.4 percent somewhat or strongly disagreed, and 17.1 percent expressed no opinion.

More than 53.7 percent of survey participants agreed or strongly agreed that as a result of residence life staff effort, they learned more about environmental sustainability efforts. About 19.7 percent somewhat or strongly disagreed, while 26.5 percent had no opinion.

Robinson also noted that students in the focus group sessions said they would like to see more programs to let students in residence halls interact in a social setting.

“The students indicated they would like to see continued and increased funding for social events, and would like to see more competitive events between floors, and not just in sports,” Robinson said. “The students also would like to see the promotion of interaction in residence halls with a suite environment and would like to see more unique educational events. Students also felt it was import to respect differences across residence halls in terms of class year and types of residence halls, and to promote informal interaction by resident assistants with residents.”

Monica Taylor, vice president for University development and alumni relations, gave senators an overview of efforts being made to develop a high performing development operation while building and strengthening an alumni network of 140,000 members worldwide.

“We are building partnerships across the University and we are working with the deans to give more authorization and decision making to the individual colleges,” Taylor said. “We also are holding a three-day UD forum and reunion weekend on June 5-7, for UD alumni and friends.”

Report from the provost

Provost Dan Rich updated senators about the University's budget challenges in light of a projected shortfall of more than $600 million in state revenues and its effect on University funding for fiscal year 2010.

“To give you a sense of proportion of what that means, the projected deficit of $600 million, which may grow to as much as $800 million, is against a state budget of $3.5 billion. You can do the math and see what that means in terms of the magnitude of the challenge,” Rich said. “We had previously been asked by the state to give a list of prospective cuts of up to 15 percent of our state budget allocation, which comes to around $19 million, but that was when the state budget projection was less than $500 million in deficit and that was in a previous state administration.”

Rich said that while the final state numbers most likely would not be available until close to the June 30 deadline for approval of the FY 2010 state budget, it seems clear that the state will have to make budget cuts, and UD will surely be part of that process.

“As we address difficult budget challenges, we are concerned first and foremost about the well-being of our students, faculty and staff. I have said that to you before, and you have heard this from President Harker, that we will protect the academic core of the University,” Rich said. “This has some very practical implications. For example, we are continuing to hire faculty and we will stand by the salary increase agreements we have made with the faculty, and continue to extend those same commitments to our staff.”

“We also will address the financial aid needs of our students," Rich said.

Because of budget concerns, including the projected state budget shortfall, Rich noted that current and future students may need more financial assistance than was originally anticipated.

“Our Commitment to Delawareans means we will meet the full demonstrated financial needs of Delaware residents up to tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, and the cost of books,” Rich said. “That commitment was made, and that commitment holds. All of this is part of a general framework of continued commitment to student support as we move forward.”

Rich said the administration is working on what will allow the University to continue to pursue a number of priorities that have been articulated as part of the University's strategic plan. “What will change is not the priorities, but the tempo for implementing and carrying forward some of those priorities.”

Rich also noted that the University is evaluating the pilot program for its First Year Experience Program. “We have learned a lot about what is good and what needs to be improved. We are all pretty much convinced that the design of the pilot program was a superior design to the one that we had been pursuing. We will scale up the pilot program design for next fall.”

Rich also said that the next UD graduate and undergraduate catalogs soon will be available online, and that the print editions will be discontinued.

In other matters, Rich noted that the University is now preparing for its next Middle States Accreditation Review, scheduled for 2011. “We have established working groups, and the Faculty Senate will be engaged in the process during the spring of 2010 and 2011,” Rich said.

During the meeting, senators approved a resolution granting permanent status to the health studies major in the College of Health Sciences. The resolution is subject to final approval by the UD Board of Trustees at its semiannual meeting on May 12.

The next meeting of the UD Faculty Senate meeting will be held at 4 p.m., Monday, March 2, in 104 Gore Hall.

Article by Jerry Rhodes