Dec. 8, 1994
Vol. 14, No. 8

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    Task force seeking suggestions, comments concerning quality of student life on campus

    The Task Force on the Quality of Student Experience has established an Internet address (qse-suggestions@uchicago.edu) and plans to place a suggestion box in Regenstein Library to solicit ideas concerning campus life.

    The Task Force on the Quality of Student Experience is one of three University-wide task forces established by President Sonnenschein and Provost Geoffrey Stone this fall. The other task forces will consider undergraduate education and graduate education. The task forces have been appointed for a two-year period.

    Susan Kidwell, Professor in Geophysical Sciences and chair of the task force, said her group has begun to categorize aspects of the student experience and to establish an agenda for addressing a long list of topics, including housing, food service, faculty-student rapport, neighborhood issues, student expectations and life outside the University.

    "The main approach will be to meet with groups of students, staff and faculty to get their ideas, and we will also use recent broad student surveys," she said.

    Through the use of e-mail, suggestion boxes and town-hall-style meetings, the committee hopes to further expand its dialogue about life at the University, she added.

    "We want input from the entire community because we see ourselves as a task force for the students. We very much want them and all the people who work with them to help us create the most effective report we can.

    "We're basically here to generate ideas on how to improve the quality of student life. Tell us what's right. Tell us where the problems are," she urged. "What can be done to make life here better? What are the impediments you experience? The wonderful thing about this University is that it's a community of thoughtful people. And they're loaded with ideas."

    Kidwell said the task force has chosen food services and the House System as its first subjects for review.

    "One reason we decided to start here is that there's already a lot of information available for housing," Kidwell said. "A lot of our students live in dorms, so the dorms provide a ready-made forum. We also see resident heads and other staff members as a real resource on the undergraduate experience."

    In order to address these issues effectively, Kidwell has subdivided the task force into three committees: Food Services; Community/Geography; and Aims & Achievements of the House System. Members of the task force sit on the committees, and students outside the task force who have been elected by their peers have been invited to join the groups.

    "This is one way we are trying to bring more students into the process, by including them as full working members of the committees," Kidwell said. "Our idea is that on these committees we combine a strong representation of students with other interested parties. We have invited people to meet with us, and we will continue to do so and to go out into the field, so to speak. Committee members will go to the residence halls, eat in the dining halls and attend staff meetings and attend residence-hall functions. They are our research arms.

    "We're doing this because we want to be efficient," she said. "Through these committees, we can effectively enlarge our force and benefit from people who have particular interests and expertise. We have a long list of topics that keeps growing, and we are going to do our best to get to every one in turn."

    In addition to asking members of the community to make suggestions, Kidwell asks that contributors be patient with the progress of her team. "We hope people will understand that we have a lot to work through. If you send us a suggestion, and we say, 'Thank you, we'll get back to you,' we will. If you provide a suggestion, you can be confident that it's being kept on file and will be used as we work through our sequence of topics.

    "The attitude of the task force is that if you're going to do something, do it right," Kidwell said. "This will be a very busy two years. These issues really matter. We are committed to presenting a thoughtful, balanced set of recommendations to the central administration."

    Members of the task force are: Susan Kidwell (chair), Geoffrey Stone (vice chair), Janice Knight, John MacAloon, Sondra Cohen, James Crown, John McCarter Jr., William Michel, Harvey Plotnick, Thomas Rosenbaum, Morton Silverman, William Simms, Steven Shevell, Abbie Smith, Jonathan Z. Smith, Henry Webber, Judith Wright and Ingrid Gould.