University Life Council

Minutes of Meeting

March 16, 2005

 Arts and Sciences Room 216


Present:            Karen Brown, Michael Christakis, John Murphy, Bill Reese, Robert Yagelski, Martin Hildebrand, Candace Merbler, Joanne Razzano, Lisa Thompson, and Gwen Moore (Chair)


Meeting commenced at 2:30 p.m.


Chair’s Report


Chair Moore welcomed everyone to the meeting and requested approval on the minutes from the February16 meeting. Minutes were unanimously approved.


Chair Moore said that the religious holiday bill had been withdrawn and the Senate had agreed to extend the current policy (recognizing the major Christian, Jewish and Muslim holidays) for another academic year. This decision had the unanimous support of the Educational Policy Council. 


Chair Moore asked for Committee reports.


Ad hoc Benefits Committee2:40 p.m.


The Open Forum for faculty has been cancelled. Instead, a broadcast email (pending approval) will be sent to all faculty asking for written feedback regarding the current family leave policy and guidelines.


Athletics Committee2:45 p.m.


Report was distributed to ULC members via email. The primary item discussed at the most recent meeting regarded increasing faculty attendance at athletic events and incentives to encourage attendance.


Health, Safety and Well-Being Committee 2:50 p.m.


Committee will meet on March 17 and is looking for feedback regarding the crosswalks on-campus. Some problem areas have already been identified including the area near the biology building and Empire Commons. In regards to Empire Commons, where there is already one crosswalk, there are some concerns with “stop and go” traffic issues if a secondary crosswalk was created. These issues may be addressed with facility management.


Student Opinion Survey3:00 p.m.


Chair Moore reviewed the results of the Student Opinion Survey, conducted by SUNY Central. The University at Albany had low scores.


There was some discussion regarding disappointment with the low scores and questions about how the survey was administered and if surveys of faculty/staff had ever been conducted as well.


Michael Christakis stated that the Department of Residential Life has been concerned about the results of these surveys for a few years and Residential Life administers the Association of College and University Housing Officers (ACUHO) survey every other Fall and the results from that survey show that Residential Life is not doing as bad as the SUNY Student Opinion Survey results indicate. The ACUHO survey is more detailed and administered in-person. M. Christakis said that this year’s ACUHO survey results were excellent for the University Apartments.


Committee members reviewed and discussed the statistical significance of the results for the SUNY Student Opinion Survey and found that a negative ranking for one category could affect overall scores. In some instances, committee members noted that UAlbany was off only by a point, but statistically that one point was significant enough to place UAlbany at a low ranking. Committee members again discussed the administration of the survey and a committee member stated that survey was sent out by mail and there was not a great response rate.


John Murphy, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, said that he was surprised by the low ranking UAlbany received in the category of “racial harmony”. He pointed out that, as with other categories, there was a very small statistical difference compared to other institutions.


Bob Yagelski asked if there could be student focus groups done on the results of the survey and some members stated that the SUNY survey will be re-administered to 400 students this semester. Additionally, Institutional Research is conducting a “student experience survey” which is boarder than the SUNY survey. The goal is to interview freshman as they enter the University and again when they are seniors. The ACUHO survey will be administered again this upcoming academic year. Committee members discussed whether the academic departments are concerned about the rankings.


Members discussed the food services results and the University’s plan to improve what is currently offered. John Murphy (Chair of the UAS Board of Directors) stated that he held a meeting with faculty to discuss Student Life activities and invited them to have a free meal in a residence hall dining area. There was more discussion about ways to make it easier for faculty to eat in the halls (i.e. giving faculty swipe cards) and ways to “build community”. Other members stated that it might be beneficial to have a “community dining hall” where both students and faculty would feel comfortable eating together and achieve a balance.


A concern ULC members have is about the physical settings of the eating areas. Almost all agreed that the most inviting and comfortable eating environment is in “Ritazza’s” the Campus Center coffee shop. Committee members inquired if students were going to the Patroon Room for meals. There does not seem to be a significant increase but the Patroon Room meals are not part of meal plans which might make it more expensive for students to eat there.


One member stated that she found it hard to find a place to eat in the Campus Center in the late evening because nothing is open. ULC members also discussed the cost of the food. John Murphy stated that Ritazza’s was planning on staying open later starting next year and he is also concerned that students get the most for their money and had even addressed this issue in recent situation with the cost of chicken wings during Saturday night dinners (students now get more wings for the same price they used to pay for less). 


John Murphy asked for feedback on the televisions in the Campus Center. Some ULC members said the problem was not with the televisions but the volume being too high. Removing the televisions is an option but it is important to review all the possibilities and solicit student feedback to find out if students are actually watching the televisions or if it is just background noise. There are possible Campus center facility upgrades being discussed to make the Campus Center more inviting and to build community.





Mandatory Health Insurance


Chair Moore stated that the mandatory health insurance policy will not be put into effect. As the RFPs started coming in and were reviewed, there was concern that the policy would create a serious financial hardship for some students. There is still the possibility this policy will be implemented at a future date.


New Business 3:35 p.m.


John Murphy reviewed the plans for Fountain Day 2005 and offered an invitation for all ULC members to attend.


Fountain Day will be on Sunday, April 17, 2005 starting at noon on Collins Circle. Last year’s Fountain Day had many individuals engaging in destructive behavior and as a result changes have been made to this year’s event.


Students will register on-line for Fountain Day by signing an “oath card” and then print out a copy of their registration form. They will bring the registration form and their student identification to check-in stations at Collins Circle and receive a wristband. Once they receive the wristband they can go anywhere, except the Fountain area until it opens up at approximately 2:30 p.m.


In conjunction with Fountain Day, the University community will attempt to set a Guinness World Record by having the world’s largest pillow fight.


There will be security stationed at strategic locations and everyone attending will have to go through security and be checked for bags, bottles etc. The Fountain will be striped with safety grips and other procedures are in place addressing safety concerns and issues.


A major goal for this year’s Fountain day is to control alcohol related incidents. Residence Hall staff are on alert and plans are in place to hold students who violate Community Rights & Responsibilities accountable for their actions.


Students will have the opportunity to win free tuition or plane tickets if they guess the exact time the Fountain will be turned on and there will be activities, prizes, free food and soda. The goal is to preserve the tradition of Fountain Day but to change behavior.


Committee members agreed that the change were important and several members said they would try to attend. Faculty or staff interested in volunteering can sign-up online by going to the Fountain Day section from the “Spirit Zone” link on the main University website.


Candace Merbler asked about bathroom facilities and J. Murphy explained that there would be portable toilet facilities available (no access to LCs to use facilities). There was a brief discussion regarding concern over students trying to gain entrance to the library (to use the bathrooms and possibly being wet and creating a safety issue). A few members suggested creating another entrance to the library.


Next meeting April 11 at 1:30. Location TBD.


Meeting was adjourned at 3:57 p.m.


Respectfully Submitted,

Nancy Lauricella, Recording Secretary