University Life Council

Minutes of Meeting

November 18, 2004

Humanities Room 290


Present: Karen Brown, Sumedha Tagare, Lisa Thompson, Candace Merbler, Ben Shaw, Martin Hildebrand, Joanne Razzano, Michael Christakis, Jennifer Stromer-Galley, John Murphy, and Gwen Moore (Chair)

Meeting commenced at 3:30 p.m.

Chair’s Report

Chair Moore welcomed everyone to the meeting and requested approval on the minutes from October 20 meeting. Minutes were unanimously approved.

Chair Moore asked for Committee and Ad hoc committee reports.

The Committee on Athletics – 3: 35

Martin Hildebrand gave a summary on current Athletics activities.

An issue with Athletics is a safety and security problem with the female locker rooms in the gymnasium. Currently, the locker rooms are not monitored and the location of the entrances to the locker rooms makes it easy for individuals to get in and out without notice. Athletics had considered a possible solution by requiring users to use a swipe card to get in and out but then that would prevent guests from using the lockers. Other solutions suggested included having work study students check the rooms and also asking the University Police Department to do unpredictable checks of the lockers on a regular basis.

The Master Plan for Athletics includes plans for a new gymnasium and improved locker facilities.

No action was taken by the Committee on Athletics regarding the safety issue with the locker rooms.

M. Hildebrand stated that the Committee discussed the academic performance of student athletes specifically that athletes are required to attend study sessions for six hours per week. If an athlete has a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher than they may be released from the study session requirement. Student athletes receive priority registration and have higher graduation rates and average GPAs than student non-athletes.

Athletic Director, Lee McElroy, spoke to the Committee about the Master Plan for Athletics which includes plans for a stadium with 10,000 seats. There are also plans to build a new outdoor track with 5,000 seats, several fields with artificial turf and lighting (for sports such as field hockey and lacrosse). A multi-purpose facility is also being planned.

The plan to upgrade the facilities requires significant funding as the projected cost is approximately $225 million.

The Athletics Committee requested that the ULC discuss this and Lee McElroy has been invited to speak at the next ULC meeting in December.

ULC members expressed some concerns over the project and M. Hildebrand stated that the Committee wanted it fully discussed. Mike Christakis said that the plan made sense because UAlbany is behind other institutions in terms of athletic facilities. He also stated that this is not a project that will happen overnight and that it will probably be spread out over 10-15 years and he believes that some elements of the plan have been incorporated into the current Capital Campaign project.

Karen Brown asked if the master plan was available for public review and M. Hildebrand said he did not believe it was available yet and M. Christakis said it was still being finalized.

M. Christakis stated that concerns over the size of the proposed UAlbany stadium are valid but believes that it can be successful and cited Stony Brook University as an example. Stony Brook recently opened its new 8,000 person stadium and has had good success filling it for events. He also said that as a Division 1 school, UAlbany needs better facilities. The problem now is weighing the concerns against the cost.

The Committee on Health, Safety and Well-Being – 3:45 p.m.

Joanne Razzano provided a summary on current activities.

The Committee has met twice and would like to keep working on the pedestrian safety issue and explore ways to bring it to the forefront of the Senate. Members are researching funding sources and speaking with Glen Cyphers, Director of Physical Plant with Facilities Management, to address the problem.

The Committee is also concerned with lighting on campus. The recent assault of a young woman on Dutch Quad has raised concerns over safety. Committee members feel that the residence halls and podium need more lighting. John Murphy also stated that the walkways from the podium to the residence halls have little to no lighting.

J. Razzano asked all ULC members to take note of areas that need to be looked at and give her a list.

Candace Merbler said that a survey has been conducted regarding lighting issues and needs. Environmental Health and Safety has the results. She also said the Advisory Committee on Campus Security is working with Laurie Garafola, Director of Residential Life, to coordinate a second survey regarding lighting.

ULC members discussed if it would be appropriate to try to address some of the lighting issues in the Mission Review or if it would be more appropriate for the Master Plan II.

J. Murphy suggested switching the blue lights illuminating the Performing Arts Center’s to bright white lights. M. Christakis stated that he believes the PAC uses the blue lights so that it is easily identifiable. J. Murphy and M. Christakis agreed that safety should override aesthetics.

C. Merbler was concerned about overgrown shrubs and J. Murphy suggested that an updated survey on overgrown shrubs be conducted.

M. Hildebrand stated that pedestrian crossings off of Washington Ave. are not useful because the crosswalks do not seem to actually lead anywhere. J. Murphy pointed out the lack of pedestrian sidewalks along Perimeter Road. C. Merbler suggested an "Empire Commons Bridge" due to the dangerous crossing zone at the intersection leading to/from Empire Commons.

J. Razzano requested that members write down areas of concerns and give to her. There is no deadline to submit the information as she will accept them for as long as she can.

Ad hoc Benefits Committee – 4:00 p.m.

Jennifer Stromer-Galley provided an updated on current Committee activities.

The Committee has met twice and has primarily focused on family leave and emeriti benefits. Bill Reese has been the advocate for emeriti benefits and has most of the details regarding these concerns. He was not present at the meeting but J. Stromer-Galley stated that some of the issues raised included emeriti not being notified of committees and grant sources. Another concern is the lack of physical space available to emeriti for meetings and gatherings. A bill passed in 1973 defines the rank of emeritus and the Committee wants to bring it up again to the University and also the ULC.

J. Stromer-Galley discussed family leave benefits. Maternity, paternity and family leave benefits are complex issues. She initially thought that there was no clear policy but she has received information from varying sources. Some issues discussed included how much time faculty are allowed from their department and ways to buyout from teaching to get more time off. Issues regarding tenure and tenure leave were also raised.

J. Stromer-Galley stated that more research needs to be done and it will most likely be a few more months before the Ad hoc Benefits Committee can come back to the ULC with a proposal.

Another issue raised was the concern that leave benefits are not a University issue but rather a Human Resources issue. C. Merbler stated that UUP conducted a state-wide family leave survey and that this would be a hot issue for the next contract. She believes the survey results are available and will get them for J. Stromer-Galley.

Ad hoc Committee on Religious Holidays – 4:10 p.m.

Chair Moore reviewed the information on the suspension of classes for religious holidays. Last year a bill was submitted to the Senate proposing the suspension of classes for two Islamic holidays, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.

Chair Moore passed around a copy of the proposal submitted last year by the Muslim Student Association to the ULC. She stated that the MSA had presented to the ULC and asked for the ULC’s support in attaining University recognition for the two holidays and the ULC supported them.

The Senate passed an amended bill which allowed for classes to be suspended on the two holidays for one year only. The Senate re-charged the ULC to review the University policy on class suspension for all religious holidays.

The Ad hoc Committee on Religious Holidays has met a few times and wants to hear from stakeholders to attain feedback. A meeting has been scheduled for December 2 at 3:30 in the Campus Center Terrace Lounge. All ULC members are invited to attend.

Chair Moore asked for suggestions on how to run the meeting. She also reviewed the New York State Education Law that requires students be allowed to take time off from classes for religious holidays without penalty.

Chair Moore presented the ULC with three possible options for the policy. University policy could return to the current policy (passed in 1970) which only recognizes the major Jewish and Christian holidays; the policy could be changed to allow for recognition of Jewish, Christian and Islamic holidays; or the University does not suspend classes for any religious holiday but asks faculty to accommodate students who request the time off, as per NYS Education Law.

Concerns were raised over other religious groups and their respective holidays. It was suggested that if the ULC proposes the holidays for the three religious groups currently being discussed, then a mechanism should be in place so that other groups can request holidays off.

C. Merbler asked if there were statistics on how many students are Muslim. Chair Moore stated that MSA estimated that approximately 800 students are Muslim but there is really no way to be totally accurate.

Another issue raised was the concern that Muslim students felt uncomfortable requesting days off even though the law protects them.

ULC members discussed that if a policy were created that does not recognize any religious holidays, then faculty should be made aware of holidays that students may request and not schedule "important" events on that day, such as exams. It was suggested that adding the holidays into the University academic calendars would allow professors to be aware of these days. A member pointed out that the school does indicate the holidays in calendars and it was then suggested that an official policy, with dates, might be effective.

Chair Moore said that only the SUNY Centers suspend classes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Out of the institutions researched, Syracuse University appears to be the only other school that recognizes the Islamic holidays.

K. Brown said that UAlbany followed Stony Brook and Binghamton in recognizing the Jewish holidays. Additionally, studies show that attendance in classes did decrease on the holidays if classes were not officially suspended. The issue seems to be less about discrimination and more about attendance in class.

Chair Moore said that another concern was recognizing another major cultural group that feels excluded.

A suggestion was made that the meeting should be an open forum and Chair Moore should facilitate and give a 10-15 minute overview on the current situation regarding suspension of classes for religious holidays and then allow individual speakers five minutes to offer feedback.

Chair Moore suggested offering possible options regarding University policy, with rationale, and have forum participants select the option they preferred and present their case on it. She will provide a copy of the Senate bill, New York State Education Law, comparison of peer institutions, and policies from other institutions.

Committee members also discussed concern over the cost of the University being open versus closed on religious holidays. J. Stromer-Galley brought up the idea to invite someone to talk to the ULC about the costs and C. Merbler suggested inviting Bill Hedberg from the Provost’s Office to raise some of the issues that the ULC should consider.




New Business

C. Merbler, Co-Chairperson, Advisory Committee for Campus Safety, provided information on the recent sexual assaults on young women near the downtown campus, student robberies and on-campus attack of a young woman. A meeting is scheduled to be held on November 18 at 8 p.m. on Alumni Quad. Officials from the Advisory Committee, Albany Police Department, College of St. Rose and University at Albany personnel will be attending to discuss the safety issues. Additionally, the University has posted safety alerts all over campus, on the website and are responding to the need for additional security.

Sumedha Tagare asked about the possibility of establishing a reduced rate or flat fee for graduate students for bulk photocopying, possibly through SUNYCard or another debit card system. Committee members said this was not possible given the difficulty in gauging the amount of photocopying an individual would do during a semester.

Next meeting is on December 13 at 3:30 in the Science Library’s 3rd floor conference room (behind the elevator).

Meeting was adjourned at 4:50 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Nancy Lauricella, Recording Secretary