Forum

Town hall meetings during summer an empty gesture

Senior economics and statistics and decision science double major Will Weiner was one of the undergraduate students to attend the first of two town hall meetings on the 10-year master plan. (credit: Kate Groschner/) Senior economics and statistics and decision science double major Will Weiner was one of the undergraduate students to attend the first of two town hall meetings on the 10-year master plan. (credit: Kate Groschner/)
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I've written before about how Carnegie Mellon administrators should communicate with undergraduate students more "CMU needs to think of students first," (Sept. 12, 2011). I was pleased, then, when I received an email from Michael Murphy, the vice president for student affairs, announcing that the university was hosting two town hall meetings to discuss some potential changes as outlined in the 2012 Master Plan.

Overall, the administration has done a fairly good job of communicating with the community about the new master plan for the campus. As The Tartan Editorial Board has noted (Oct. 3, 2011), the administration has held numerous town hall meetings and has worked to keep the overall process transparent, allowing staff and students to be involved.

However, when I finished reading this particular town hall announcement, it left me more irritated at than appreciative of administrators' efforts. The meeting aims to "[capture] your insights as to buildings, connections between buildings, pedestrian and traffic flows and open spaces that are more or less successful," according to Murphy's email. But if Campus Design and Facilities Development wants to capture the insights of students, why on Earth are they holding these town hall meetings in the middle of June, with less than a week's notice?

I understand that faculty and staff are around during the summer, as well as a smattering of summer students, but the majority of students leave Pittsburgh for the summer, and the students are the ones who would be most affected by changes in open spaces and pedestrian flows. If the administration really wants to gather students' opinions, it should hold these meetings during the school year, or at least in the one or two weeks immediately preceding the start of school, so that more students would be able to attend.

Perhaps the administration really wants to gather students' opinions, but doesn't want to wait until the school year to start making progress on the master plan. If that's the case, they should use one of the primary mediums of communication for college students: the internet. The administration could set up some sort of online forum or comment form, where students would need to sign in with their Andrew ID and then could have conversations about the changes they would like to see on campus.

Of course, despite being one of the top schools for computer science in the country, Carnegie Mellon does seem to have problems fully harnessing its online capabilities, as evidenced by the course registration debacle last semester. But if Carnegie Mellon better utilized the talent of its students, faculty, and staff to improve communication, concerned members of the school community would be truly appreciative.

I know a few town hall meetings might not seem like that big of a deal, but, as in all relationships, it's the little things that count. If Carnegie Mellon wants to improve its relationship with undergraduates so that its rate of alumni gifts will be higher than a mere 16 percent, a sincere attempt at communication could go a long way.