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Academic Affairs asks students to speak their minds

The Academic Affairs Committee of Student Senate organized a forum last Tuesday that allowed students to speak their minds.

A diverse group of students, both undergraduates and several graduate students from the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, came to see how the university makes procedural changes.

Evan Osheroff, a sophomore in the Mellon College of Science and the Academic Affairs Committee chair for the undergraduate Student Senate, facilitated the event. His goal was to hear student opinions on issues the university can improve; to keep the discussion honest, he gave out notecards at the door on which people could anonymously write their comments. Osheroff started discussions based on the notecard he pulled out from among those turned in.

The meeting began with a note from an audience member complimenting the level of student involvement.

The discussion then turned to alumni, as another comment brought to question whether campus maintenance affects alumni pride and their subsequent contributions. A participant said the current state of groundskeeping and maintenance was not up to par.

Osheroff answered by pointing out how far Carnegie Mellon has come, considering that it is still a relatively new school. He dismissed the correlation between campus maintenance and alumni donations.

“In the recent years a lot of clubs and organizations have come up, so the current alumni feel better about the campus,” he said.

The next notecard question claimed a lack of unity among programs. Once students start specializing in their majors, the card said, they rarely meet people of other backgrounds in their classes.

To solve this problem, one student suggested taking initiative.

“I try to get the RAs to work together,” said Byron Chou, suggesting joint programming between housing areas. Chou is a sophomore in business and a resident assistant (RA) in Cathedral Mansions.

Another notecard addressed convenience and suggested the university add computer access in the University Center. Currently, clusters closest to the UC are in West Wing and Cyert Hall.

“We should have them in different areas around the UC,” said junior Tehana Weeks. Other participants suggested computers in the bookstore or near the mailboxes.

Led by a comment on the next notecard, participants then discussed Interpretation and Argument, a mandatory first-year course. One audience member suggested reassigning some of the teachers and having an engineering teacher conduct the class in a way that is more technical and familiar to the students who are not creative thinkers.

Osheroff said the option was not viable.

“It would take more time to train those teachers in those fields,” he said.

The notecard that drew the most discussion questioned meal plans, and the comment suggested meals blocks are too expensive. However, the students disagreed about a conclusion.

“I think the best way to change the prices of food would be for CMU to work out better deals with vendors or to find new vendors,” Weeks said.

Carnegie Mellon currently works under a contract with Parkhurst, a company that acts as a liaison between third-party vendors.

Following the discussion, Osheroff will review the topics with Indira Nair, the vice-provost for education. Togther, they will implement what changes they see fit.

“It would be nice if a follow-up report would be sent out on what has happened, what meetings have taken place, and what changes work,” Weeks said.