University Life Council
Minutes of Meeting
December 13, 2004
Science Library, Third Floor Conference Room
Present: Roslyn Jefferson, Joanne Razzano, Lisa Thompson, Michael Christakis, Candace Merbler, Ben Shaw, Karen Brown, Dan Smith, Ben Shaw, Martin Hildebrand, Jennifer Stromer-Galley, John Murphy, Jim Doellefeld, and Gwen Moore (Chair)
Guest: Lee McElroy (Athletics)
Meeting commenced at 3:35 p.m.
Chair Moore welcomed everyone to the meeting and requested approval on the minutes from November 18, 2004 meeting. Minutes were approved with minor corrections.
Chair Moore introduced Lee McElroy, Director of Athletics.
Lee McElroy, Director of Athletics – Athletics Master Plan – 3: 38
Lee McElroy provided background on the Master Plan for Athletics.
When the Athletics Master Plan was developed, it was simply a blueprint that was linked to the overall campus master plan (in terms of facilities, roads etc.) and is still integrated into the planned campus upgrades. Ten firms bid to design the plan.
Students interested in enrolling at the University indicate that they are very concerned about fitness facilities and want to attend school at a campus with good facilities.
A major element of the plan includes designs for a new football stadium with 10,000 seats. This would be part of Phase II of the Master Plan and in the cost range of $25-40 million. There is no timetable for this Phase.
A multipurpose project is also in the works and is part of Phase I of the plan. Included in Phase I, are plans to build several fields with artificial turf and lighting (for sports such as field hockey and lacrosse). Currently, the University is the only higher education institution in the Northeast without artificial turf and as a result, University at Albany teams must play their games at Union College. It is anticipated that this phase will be complete by end of Summer 2005.
Committee members requested clarification of the different phases. L. McElroy explained that it was the project architects who designed the phases with the parameters given to them by the University. It is possible that the engineers will alter things so phases (and therefore timeframes) may be moved around.
L. McElroy said that connecting the athletic facilities to the academic podium is an important element to the plan. The plan includes a promenade between the podium to the fields and gymnasium, to better facilitate pedestrian traffic.
An outdoor track area is also part of the design and will be separate from the stadium and adjacent to the multipurpose arena. The multipurpose arena will contain an indoor track, rope climbing and facilities to hold functions. The estimated cost is $36 million.
The baseball and softball areas are in good shape and will receive minor renovations including the addition of 1200 seats. UAlbany has one of the top 35 baseball teams in the nation.
The practice fields (currently used groups such as the New York Giants and soccer teams) will also receive minor upgrades.
The entire project, consisting of 13 elements, is in the $200 million range. It could be funded in a variety of ways including corporations bidding for naming rights (particularly for the football stadium); debt financing; and money from the construction fund. Ultimately, the new president will most likely decide how it fits in to the University’s philosophy and mission.
L. McElroy provided examples of other SUNY institutions that have revamped their athletic facilities to further clarify the phases, costs and issues that could arise. SUNY Stony Brook recently completed a 9,000 person stadium that was initially estimated to cost $7 million and ended up totaling $35 million. The University at Buffalo has spent $35 million over six years of upgrades. Of course, each school is different and each project has its complexities.
Questions were asked about the traffic around the University and there was concern that Perimeter Road would have to be moved. L. McElroy said that there is the possibility that certain areas of the road would be made one-way but that it would depend on how it fits into overall campus master plan.
The issue was raised regarding parking for the new stadium. L. McElroy agreed that there was not enough parking near the stadium for 10,000 people but the new parking garage, currently being constructed, would have plenty of parking. People attending events would have to walk to the facilities but it would be no different than at other large campuses where you would have to walk to get from a parking lot to the stadium.
There was concern over how the tennis courts fit into the plan and L. McElroy said that the tennis courts will be near the indoor facilities and field hockey fields. The current tennis courts are in bad shape and hardly ever used so moving them and fixing them is much needed.
Committee members inquired as to whether the New York Giants would have a role in the funding of the plan and L. McElroy explained that the although the Giants will like the new field turf, whether they will give money towards athletic upgrades is a different discussion. He anticipates that there will probably be conversations about it but is doubtful that anything will come through.
Dan Smith inquired about indoor facilities for intramural basketball and L. McElroy assured the Committee that there would be facilities for such activities.
Committee members were pleased that the new plan included something for everyone.
Karen Brown asked if there were plans to rebuild/renovate the swimming pool. L. McElroy said that the pool facilities would probably not be renovated. Participation in swimming is dropping as soccer, volleyball and lacrosse membership is increasing. There is an "option" on an aquatic center within the plan but it will depend on cost as swimming facilities have a higher operational cost.
Vice President Doellefeld further explained that a swimming team usually also includes a diving team and the dive tank area in the pool facilities are too shallow for such a team.
Chair Moore asked if there was funding to begin the projects and L. McElroy said that the funding is there and construction is already happening. The new basketball courts are being worked on as well as the upgrades to the field hockey and lacrosse fields.
Martin Hildebrand inquired whether alumni funding was a possibility and L. McElroy indicated that interest is being generated for alumni money.
L. McElroy said that that University at Albany is very far behind and needs to catch up. The most frequent comments the department receives during exit interviews conducted with graduating student athletes include concerns about the facilities. L. McElroy also pointed out how hard the department’s student athletes work.
Chair Moore asked if the Master Plan was available on the web and L. McElroy explained that the next phase (set to commence in January) would also initiate the marketing campaign for public and private support which would include computer imaging of the plans and would be available for public viewing.
Chair Moore stated that it was important to have good athletic facilities and thanked Lee McElroy for attending the meeting.
Vice President Doellefeld – Smoke-Free Housing – 4:10 p.m.
V.P. Doellefeld provided background regarding smoke-free housing at the University.
UAlbany has always provided an option for students to live in a smoke-free room. Students who smoke has dropped to approximately 18 percent, so fewer students are smoking but there are more smoking issues.
Residential Life staff members are dealing with more complaints and a frequent one is a student who fills out a form, indicating they want smoke-free housing (presumably with parental pressure) but are actually smokers.
The proposal and recommendations are that by Fall 2005, all of State and Indian Quad will be smoke-free. By Fall 2006, all four uptown Quads and the one downtown Quad will be smoke-free (a grandfather clause will be in place for students who smoke). Empire Commons and Freedom Quad will be exempt due to the fact that it is primarily upperclassmen and graduate students who reside there.
John Murphy asked if the entire campus would move to become smoke-free. V.P. Doellefeld said that there may be labor union issues with that and would be a work environment issue that would have to be negotiated.
Karen Brown asked if there was any discussion about a lounge area given the issues with requiring students to smoke outdoors and near doorways. V.P. Doellefeld explained that the current policy is that individuals must be at least 30 feet away from a door. A smoking location indoors is being explored but there are venting issues.
Committee members were concerned about safety issues for late-night smokers, especially women, and V.P. Doellefeld agreed that this was a concern that was being addressed and that UPD would post security officers by the doors (currently already being done) but the issue is something that will have to be more fully discussed.
K. Brown stated that no smoking is a rule, not a law, and was concerned about the issues this might raise. Committee members briefly discussed the ethical issue regarding banning smoking in residence halls as well quality of life issues and health issues surrounding secondhand smoke.
A motion to endorse the proposal on principle was made, seconded and passed. One vote to the negative, all others to the affirmative.
Graduate Student Academic Council – 4:00 p.m.
Chair Moore announced that the Graduate Student Academic Council wanted the ULC to review a situation regarding a petition submitted by a graduate student for reinstatement to the University at Albany.
The issue revolved around an incident that occurred during the 2002-2003 academic year involving alleged racial harassment between two roommates.
J. Murphy handled the case and provided background information to Committee members.
The petitioning graduate student lived with another student on Alumni Quad and had constant debates with his roommate regarding lifestyle, cleanliness and political views. The graduate student moved out after only about 3 weeks of living with his roommate but a verbal argument ensued during the move (did not appear to be a racially based argument). Residential Life staff documented the incident and the graduate student received a single room but alleged that the former roommate continued to harass him. The graduate student is African-American and his former roommate is Caucasian.
The graduate student was on conditional admittance with his graduate program and did not meet the academic requirements to maintain enrollment within the program and was subsequently dismissed. There is the insinuation from the graduate student that the situation with the former roommate led to his academic demise.
J. Murphy has provided information to the GSAC regarding this situation and referred to the Community Rights & Responsibilities regarding hate/bias crimes and how to file judicial referrals and deal with incidents.
Chair Moore -- Religious Holidays – 4:35 p.m.
Chair Moore briefly reviewed the minutes from the University Open Forum on Religious Holidays held on December 2, 2004. Chair Moore reported that since that meeting, she has received additional feedback from individuals regarding the situation with religious holidays, including several individuals from the Biology Department.
Committee members discussed that the difficulty of scheduling labs on religious holidays probably made this a significant concern for the science departments. Dan Smith said that many students who take biology are probably also taking other science courses, so they are not missing just one class with labs but possibly other classes as well.
Chair Moore said that there appeared to be an even split between people wanting to extend the policy to include the Muslim holidays and those who want to eliminate the suspension of classes all together.
She further explained that the suspension of classes for the Muslim holidays ends at end of academic year and the campus will revert back to the 1970s law that recognizes only the major Christian and Jewish holidays, unless a bill is proposed to recognize Muslim holidays or not suspend classes at all.
K. Brown stated that studies have shown that it is a very common practice to not suspend classes and examples of institutions that follow this include the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, Rutgers, University of Connecticut and UMass Amherst. Committee members pointed out that schools that did not suspend classes clearly indicated their policy and some provide lists of major holidays and also gave hints on what types of assignments to give on those days as equivalent work to major projects.
Chair Moore asked if it would be difficult to revert to a policy of no holidays and V.P. Doellefeld indicated that it could be tough but not impossible and would require items such as community input and a comprehensive rationale.
Committee members asked what percentage of students were Muslim and V.P. Doellefeld said that during orientation sessions for new students a card is distributed for self-reporting religious preference but most do not answer. At last estimate, it was approximated that the campus had 800 Muslim students.
Dan Smith stated that the New York State Education Law protects students so it should not matter who celebrates what holiday. However, he raised the concern that although the law states that you can not penalize a student for missing a class, how can the University ensure that happens.
V.P. Doellefeld pointed out that there is a fundamental difference between penalizing a student and suspending classes.
J. Murphy stated that he sees approximately a dozen students at the MSA prayer meetings in the Campus Center.
Chair Moore raised the point stated earlier by J. Murphy and others that the issue was not about numbers, but rather about respect and recognition and that Muslim students wanted the same treatment as other religions. K. Brown said that the climate in the 1970s was different from what it is now and other members agreed that a different approach would be necessary to find a solution. ULC members discussed different ways for students and departments to approach this issue.
D. Smith volunteered to write the bills for proposal and said that there were many models to follow but no matter what, there would need to be strong rationale for whatever was decided.
K. Brown raised another concern regarding students who feel that they are not getting the education they want/deserve because of the suspension of holidays. Members also discussed the options available to faculty/staff who desire days off to celebrate religious holidays.
Chair Moore moved further discussion regarding suspension of classes on religious holidays to the January meeting.
Next meeting will be in January, time and location TBD.
Meeting was adjourned at 5:00 p.m.
Nancy Lauricella, Recording Secretary