University Life Council

Minutes of Meeting

January 27, 2004

 Campus Center Terrace Lounge


Present:            Sumedha Tagare, Kathy Lowery, Jim Doellefeld, Karen Brown, Michael Christakis, Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Bill Reese, Joanne Razzano, Robert Yagelski, Roslyn Jefferson, Candace Merbler, Ben Shaw, Lisa Thompson, and Gwen Moore (Chair)


Guest:               William Hedberg (Provost’s Office)


Meeting commenced at 1:35 p.m.


Chair’s Report


Chair Moore welcomed everyone to the meeting and requested approval on the minutes from the December 13 meeting. Minutes were unanimously approved.


Chair Moore introduced Bill Hedberg, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, to discuss smoking on the academic podium.


Bill Hedberg – Smoking on Academic Podium1:38 p.m.


Bill Hedberg provided background information on a situation regarding smoking on the academic podium. He also stated that he wanted to initiate discussion regarding adjustments to the smoking policy and was not requesting to change it.


There are several occupants in the Social Sciences building, including several faculty members, who have acute sensitivities to air quality. It appears that the northwest corner of the podium is the problem-area.


The current strategy is to designate areas where you do not want smoking to take place. The area has been distinctly marked with a multitude of “no smoking” signs.


B. Hedberg explained that the vents that take in air are near the northwest corner of the podium. Additionally, this is the time of year that causes people to stand closer to the door while smoking thus resulting in a chimney effect. The goal is to create a “designated smoking area” in the northwest corner to help alleviate some of the effects on the affected individuals in the social science building. Schenectady County Community College and SUNY Central have created “designated smoking” areas with success and have gone so far as to even install shelters.


The northwest area on the University campus is currently marked with picnic tables but the atmospheric conditions are a bit unpredictable so for now, the short-term goal is to gauge human behavior and see what happens. Advisory notices have been distributed (copies were given to ULC members) regarding the designated smoking areas. B. Hedberg hopes that if the request is made that individuals smoke only in those areas, then they will comply. He asked the ULC members if there were any other suggestions or ideas.


ULC members discussed other problem areas. Some members mentioned that the entrances to the Science Library seem to attract a lot of dirt and trash and suggested that putting signs up indicating exactly where you can smoke would be easier than hoping people would be able to estimate the ‘legal’ amount of feet they were supposed to be away from the building (as stated in University policy).


Another question raised was in regards to signage and if it was very clear and visible. B. Hedberg responded that there are actually standards for “no smoking” signage and the University is fabricating signs to meet those standards. He also stated that the signs are everywhere.


Committee members suggested that permanently marking the ground (floor) to indicate the number of feet you were from the building might be helpful. Karen Brown said that in order to be fair and in turn get people to comply, it should be very obvious where you are allowed to stand. Bill Hedberg said that architecturally the squares on the podium area 10 feet by 10 feet and therefore if the rule is that you must be “10 feet away” from building entrances and open windows, you could walk one square out and be in compliance but the northwest corner area needs to be treated a bit differently because of the heightened sensitivities of individuals in the building.


Jennifer Stromer-Galley said that the intake vents look like benches so if you are standing ten feet away, it puts you up against the vents. B. Hedberg explained that the vents J. Stromer-Galley referred to are actually outtake vents. A suggestion was made to actually mark the area where the intake vents are located so that people would not stand there, but B. Hedberg, along with other committee members, pointed out that marking the intake vents would raise other concerns and issues.


Candace Merbler said that she believes signage is a problem. Around the library area, the staff know to walk away from the building, but sometimes students don’t realize they aren’t supposed to stand by the doors/windows. She suggested moving the ash trays away from the building and advertising to students and staff via a marketing/advertising campaign to make them aware of the policies.


B. Hedberg said that the different approach experiment in the northwest corner will help determine if human behavior can be adjusted. He agreed that the ash trays create a dilemma because you want trays near the doors so people have a place to dispose of their cigarettes before coming into a building but also get people to keep their distance. Once the atmospheric conditions are more clearly determined, the ash trays in the problem-area will be bolted to the concrete.


Committee Reports1:47 p.m.


Committee Reports will be distributed to everyone for review prior to ULC meetings. Reports can be sent to Nancy Lauricella for distribution with the minutes each month.


Athletics Committee


At the January 20 meeting, the primary topic was a discussion on how to increase faculty/staff attendance at athletic events. Committee members discussed the men’s upcoming basketball games and that attendance over the winter intersession was high – averaging about 1200-1500 people in attendance.


Ad hoc Benefits Committee


The Committee met on January 7. In addition to the ad hoc committee members, John Marino, Vice President for Professionals for United University Professions (UUP) and Candace Merbler, UUP University at Albany Chapter President, were also present to discuss some of the issues and policies regarding family leave. The Committee would like to hold an open forum, for faculty, regarding family leave. The Ad hoc committee also discussed emeriti benefits and would like to speak with Bill Hedberg to gather additional information on this issue.





Religious Holidays – 2:05 p.m.


Chair Moore passed around copies of emails and letters sent from constituents regarding their point of view on the suspension of classes for religious holidays.


She also referred to two draft bills, written by committee member Dan Smith, for submission to the Senate:


  • Extension of current situation
  • Completely eliminate religious holidays but comply with New York State Education Law


Chair Moore received many letters in support of elimination of religious holidays from the Biology Department. She also passed around a copy of a letter written by the Muslim Student Association to the Albany Student Press (1/24/05, page 2) in appreciation of the University’s recognition of the Muslim holidays by suspending classes. She also received letters of support from campus religious leaders.


Chair Moore said that there were clearly strong feelings regarding the suspension of classes but no consensus and that the ULC should vote on a recommendation to submit to the Senate by the next ULC meeting. Karen Brown was concerned that the draft bill on extending the policy may be too long and Chair Moore also pointed out that the calendar attached to the bill needed to be updated.


Committee members discussed the bills and issues surrounding the suspension of religious holidays including questions about the percentage of UAlbany students who are Muslim and the policy of other campuses on suspension of classes during religious holidays.


Also discussed was the New York State Education Law allowing students to miss classes for religious holidays without being penalized. Michael Christakis said that if you want to emphasize that students will not be penalized for missing a class for any religious holiday, then the NYS Education Law covers that. It is important to make sure students and faculty members understand and know about the law. A few committee members expressed concern that faculty may not even be familiar with the law.


Roslyn Jefferson pointed out that there was a lot of negative response from faculty and asked if there were any letters from faculty members who had a more positive position regarding the suspension of classes during religious holidays. Chair Moore said she received a positive letter from a Physics Department professor and that the overall faculty response, from several different departments, has been overwhelming to the positive of eliminating holidays.


Karen Brown said that people whose interest is religion will most likely be pro-suspension of classes while others who feel that academics is a priority will most likely be against it. She asked what the students’ position was and Chair Moore said that at the open forum regarding suspension of classes for religious holidays, many student leaders did not attend.


Sumedha Tagare said that her constituency, graduate students, want a compromise and be allowed to make up work. Joanne Razzano said that most non-degree students didn’t know why classes were suspended on January 21.


Bill Reese said that being in a class doesn’t necessarily equate to an education (i.e. Oxford University meets for six weeks and then recesses for six weeks). B. Reese said that there would be arguments for all sides and there should be a way to compromise.


Another committee member stated that he had dealt with a similar situation at a boarding school he taught at that had an annual three week vacation in March. Although the vacation was disruptive, it was a tradition and the teachers at the school found a way around it. He emphasized that whatever criteria was adopted, that the University should be aware of the pedagogical issues.


Jennifer Stromer-Galley said that whatever decision was made it would be publicized and thus the distinctions should be clear. If the University recognizes some religions but not others then there is the possibility of the University appearing unjust and as a state institution, the University should not recognize any religious holidays. She stated that faculty should excuse students without penalty and the law regarding that should be made very clear.


M. Christakis said that if the question was whether students were happy to get the day off then the answer would most likely be a resounding yes. Bill Hedberg asked if not recognizing the holidays would actually solve the academic departments’ problem as they would still have to recognize NYS Law and allow students the day off if requested. Committee members agreed that assuming the departments are aware of the law is not enough and it would have to be made more well-known and understood.


Chair Moore closed the discussion by stating that committee members should think about the drafts and issues and be prepared to vote by next meeting.


New Business2:45


Roslyn Jefferson announced that there are Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings on campus now and the first meeting is January 27. It is open to the public and was created with the needs of students in mind (students don’t have cars so it might be easier to get to a meeting on campus).


Bill Reese inquired about the visitor parking situation and if the parking policy B. Hedberg had discussed at an earlier ULC meeting was being employed with the AA meetings since people from off-campus might be visiting the University to attend the meeting. B. Hedberg said that the AA parking is consistent with that strategy.


Sumedha Tagare asked if graduate students could have their student identification cards marked as “graduate student” because the Graduate Student Organization facilities are for graduate students only and it has been difficult to decipher who is a graduate student and who is not since ID cards are only labeled as “student”. Vice President Kathy Lowery said she would look into this.


Next meeting will be February 16 at 2:30 and location TBD.


Meeting was adjourned at 2:50 p.m.


Respectfully Submitted,

Nancy Lauricella, Recording Secretary