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Campus News

Students Voice Their Concerns

by Greta Petry (May 6, 2005)

From left, moderator Laurie Reilly,Nick Chiucholo, Brianne Myers, Esmerelda Hoscoy, Don Boyce, Mike Reynolds, and Ben Shotten.

From left, moderator Laurie Reilly, Nick Chiucholo, Brianne Myers, Esmerelda Hoscoy, Don Boyce, Mike Reynolds, and Ben Shotten.

Faculty, staff, and President Kermit L. Hall listened April 19 as six undergraduates voiced their concerns with course availability, access to faculty, and academic advising in the first "Voice of the Students" panel discussion in Campus Center 375. Laurie Reilly, who hosts a Sunday talk show on WGY radio, was the moderator.

"If we want to meet the needs of our students, we need to do whatever we can to understand those needs," said Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Christine Bouchard, the event organizer. "The 'Voice of the Students' is a great way to help us pay closer attention to those needs and concerns."

One issue that emerged was the need to improve the transfer student experience. Transfer orientation for Don Boyce, a junior from Orange County Community College, meant filling out lots of papers, while figuring out how to find the Financial Aid office and where to go for a SUNYCard. He added that not knowing the system works against transfers. "I didn't know what an SKN number was for quite some time," he said. "Students should be told the process of getting into a class can be quite competitive."

Orientation experiences varied widely, from Boyce's one transfer day to Mike Reynolds' "great" freshman orientation, to sophomore Esmerelda Hoscoy's smooth five-week orientation through the Educational Opportunities Program. Hoscoy said that by the time her orientation was over, she knew the entire campus and was showing everyone else around.

General Education requirements were another issue discussed. Reynolds, a student-athlete, said he has directed many students to the Web site listing which classes fit General Education requirements. "I don't think students know this [Web site] exists," he said. Hoscoy said she didn't realize that if you take a Gen Ed class, it can become part of your major or minor. Boyce added, "just when you think you have your Gen Eds under control, you don't."

Course availability was also an issue of concern. Several students said they've "pleaded" for SKN numbers, the numbers that a faculty member provides to let a student into an already-full class.

Sophomore Nick Chiucholo, a political science major, said he had to switch his minor from education because he couldn't get into the appropriate classes. "They've red-flagged me or something," he quipped.

Junior Brianne Myers, a Presidential Scholar who has special registration privileges, said she's "been blessed," but added that students who plan ahead need to know which classes are going to be dropped or switched in the coming semester.

Senior Ben Shotten said he's had no problem with course availability. He added that "somehow, some way," most students find a way to get into their classes. The ideal, however, is that no student should have to face hurdles to obtain his or her classes.

Reynolds suggested that Information Technology Services offer training to freshmen and sophomores on how to use MyUAlbany software. Other than his "crash course" at orientation, he didn't know how it worked. Boyce said that with only three computers to use in the School of Business for transfer registration, "I didn't even know what MyUAlbany was. Everything was trial and error. It was a big learning curve."

Students were asked if larger classes would be acceptable. While Hoscoy said she prefers smaller classes, Chiucholo said, "Five hundred students in a class, that's fine. I just want to get into the classes I need." Chiucholo said that while faculty and staff try hard to add extra students to classes, "plain and simple, there are just not enough seats (openings) in the classrooms."

When School of Criminal Justice Professor Jim Acker asked whether students would take Saturday morning classes if offered, reaction was mixed.

Boyce thought a Tuesday/Thursday/ Saturday class could be promising. "I see benefits, because this is not a commuter campus," he said.

Reynolds said as an athlete, a Saturday morning class would make it very difficult for him to attend.

But Hoscoy liked the idea, saying, "I need to work no matter what." She said she might take a Saturday morning class so she could work Saturday nights. She generally takes classes from mornings until 2:30 or 3 p.m., so she can work from 4 to 9:30 p.m.

Regarding faculty availability, students said they want professors to respond to their e-mails and advertise office hours.

Reynolds said if professors will list their office hours on the classroom chalk board daily, "I guarantee they will have students at their office hours."

Said Hoscoy, "If the professors would be there during their office hours, that would be great."

Faculty and staff enjoyed the session, many coming away with a new understanding of issues that mean the most to students.

"I think this discussion was very valuable," said Bouchard. "It is clear from this session there are multiple student voices with a variety of opinions. These diverse voices must all be considered and balanced to enhance our students' experience at UAlbany."