Senate GBM recap, April 29

The Undergraduate Senate general body meeting on April 29 featured a guest talk on changes to academic advising, an end-of-the-year report on the state of student organizations, and a vote on whether to make the existing fund for student course materials permanent.

Vice Provost for Education Amy Burkert updated the Senate on academic advising, student success, and equity. She discussed how academic advising had been consolidated from various different departments into the Student Academic Success Center (SASC), allowing students to refer to one location for academic advising and resources. She mentioned that the university was moving toward having all advisers have a baseline knowledge of the different areas of advising while still preserving major and expertise-specific advising.

In addition, Burkert discussed the outlook for the fall. She said that the university was expecting a significant return to in-person learning, with most classes, especially labs and studios, being offered in-person. She said that the university would still preserve some remote-only courses for students unable to return to the U.S. If there was another spike in cases, Burkert said that the classes would not necessarily be going remote again, and instead, the university would focus on reducing the density of classes.

The university anticipated some challenges in returning to in-person lectures, such as attendance, as online courses often gave more freedom with respect to attendance and scheduling. Burkert had read the Senate paper on preferred learning structures and recognized the benefits of preserving some kind of online lecture recordings, and also discussed the use of online course materials and notes through the Open Learning Initiative. Though Burkert expressed that there were concerns about recording lectures due to intellectual property issues and students not listening to lectures if they were recorded, she affirmed that the university was considering options of how they could continue to provide lecture recordings.

Student Body Vice President for Organizations Imran Hyder presented updates from the Committee of Student Organizations (CoSO). Hyder focused on the re-recognition process for student organizations, which this year was a form on The Bridge website. The results of the form at the time of the meeting confirmed that two student organizations would not be continuing. The Senate had anticipated more organizations terminating due to the pandemic restrictions, though around 60 organizations still had yet to fill out the form. If any of the organizations do not fill out the form, CoSO will contact SLICE for recommendations on further action, but Hyder said they would most likely try to preserve these organizations regardless.

The Senate also discussed whether to preserve the Student Supplies Fund. The Student Supplies Fund was created during the pandemic to fund required course materials not covered by financial aid, with a maximum of $500 per individual in funding. The Academic Affairs Committee proposed making this a permanent fund, as they believed the need to fund such materials would continue. Due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Student Supplies Fund could not collect proof of financial burden, so the fund was open to all students who needed materials covered. The Senate reported that, over the past year, about 45 people requested funds, with about two-thirds of the requests approved and approximately $4000 paid out in total. The majority of denials were due to requests for materials they were not able to fund. The Senate voted 14 to 0 to 2 to pass the proposal and make the Student Supplies Fund permanent.