Student Life

  • Fireside Chat
  • December 3, 2012
  • Kuenzel Room, Michigan Union


Mary Sue Coleman: Thank you all for being here! We love to sit down and have these little chats with students to pick your brains and have you all pick ours. We always try to invite students randomly to get a variety of ideas. This is really your time to ask anything you’d like. Who would like to go first?

Registration Pains

Student (Junior, college of Engineering): I went to a high school where they didn’t offer many AP classes to come in with college credit. I’ve noticed that that has been a problem for me here at Michigan because I started out with fewer credits than everybody else and as such have always gotten later registration dates and that causes me to miss out on classes I really wanted or needed.  One thing I have been thinking might be a possible solution would be to let students register based on their orientation date rather than their credit standing and by how many credits they have in their time at the university. 

Mary Sue Coleman: That’s a reasonable question, and we’ll certainly ask.  It does seem like a legitimate problem. However, we have to have this balance because we don’t want to discourage the students who want to come in with more credits who are aiming to graduate sooner.  Have you been able to get everything you needed though?

Student (Junior, college of Engineering): Well, yes except for like some 8am labs that I really didn’t want to take.

Mary Sue Coleman: Oh well, that’s part of the experience! (laughter) Toughen up! I am just joking with you. Anyone else have a question?

Career Fairs

Student: I am a Ross student and Ross does a lot in the way of getting us career placement and internships with major fortune 500 companies and I recently went to an LSA career fair and I was really shocked and appalled at how crazy the set up was and how inaccessible the businesses were.  I’d really like to see more funding go to that to make the process better.

Mary Sue Coleman: Well that is definitely something we can do something about and will go back and be in talks about what we could do to help with that.

Markley Who?

Same Student: Great. Also, I’m on the Res. Staff for Markley, and we really have a sense of inequality where the University constantly overlooks Markley.  We house over 1200 residents and yet, despite the issue being continuously raised, we only ever get hand-me-down furniture, etc.

Mary Sue Coleman: Perhaps you could say something on that (to Royster).

Vice President Harper: So what we’ve been doing is marching down the line in our hall renovations. We started with the heritage halls and then began with the worst of those and have planned to just go down the line.  Now you aren’t going to believe this but Markley is actually relatively new (laughter) and so it’s further down the line but we will get to it.

Mary Sue Coleman: When I started working here, one of the main things I wanted to start doing was fixing these halls because these are things you need to constantly do and it’s never ending work and as soon as we are done with all the halls, it’s going to be time to start all over and it’s something we are taking seriously and hope to keep up.

Double the Trouble

Student: So I have been trying to do a double major and have just been realizing that with all the requirements for a single major, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to adopt a second major, and doing so severely limits your freedom, such as your summers and the ability to take electives. I was wondering how you would suggest doing something about that. Can we fix that?

Mary Sue Coleman: I learned a long time ago that I do not tell the faculty what to do, and those decisions are made by the faculty.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask the question.  What I’ve found is that producing change in that area takes a huge amount of coordination and effort on the part of the faculty, but I strongly urge you to bring it up and see what answers you can get.

Student: A lot of the questions students are asking are broad policy changes that affect a lot of students; what I’m wondering about is the history of those changes and if students have been successful producing those changes in the past?

Mary Sue Coleman: So normally the faculty instigates those changes, and the faculties are constantly looking at, adding, and taking away courses to accommodate the changing field they study.  That doesn’t mean that student voices aren’t heard—rather they can be quite helpful.  Another way I’ve seen change prompted by students is through entrepreneurship and a lot of interdisciplinary work being done across departments.

Vice President Harper: Things like IGR, the race and ethnicity requirement, and others are resultant from student interest so it’s definitely possible for students to bring about those changes to curriculum.

Mary Sue Coleman: Also, other curriculum changes come about based on employer input based on what skills they would like to see graduates possessing and we hear a lot from our alumni as well about what skills they want to see coming from students at top schools like Michigan.

Space to Grow

Student: Hi. I’m in the Law School and I find that our commons are far more seamlessly integrated in our academic and non-academic lives. It really is a great facility for the Law Students here. However, once realizing this about the new law Commons I have realized that that is not the case with the Union.

Mary Sue Coleman: Working with our spaces is a problem we grapple with constantly.  Every time we renovate we’re looking for ways to make more continuous places.  I am very interested in hearing your reaction to what the Law Commons have done for your experience because it’s exactly what we have in mind during our renovations of every space we have.

Student: I’m in a housing group and we’ve been looking at all the dorms and we heard that West Quad is going to be renovated in the next two years or so.  We were wondering if there will be a modernized push or if it will stay a historic dorm as far as the architecture and things like that?

Vice President Harper: So we typically try to keep the antique quality of the architecture, and with the interiors we have tried in each of the dorms to create a different ambiance.  We design with a huge amount of input the current students.  But in general we will not violate the historic beauty of the building because we want the space to somewhat speak to the students that live there. Staying in Alice Lloyd versus staying in West Quad would be two different experiences and we want to keep that in tact.


Student: I wanted to talk about the mandatory programs students take during orientation like AlcoholEDU and Reimaging Diversity.  I just don’t think that the programs the University works so hard on are very effective when the U isn’t on the ground and constantly working on it, particularly with regard to diversity. For instance, my experience is very different from a lot of peers when I am in a class where I am the only African American male and so my peers in that class or even my GSI seem to treat me differently and I have a hard time sometimes convincing my younger peers to come here knowing that that could very well be their experience. I had been thinking of maybe even a course like AlcoholEDU surrounding diversity for students to take.

Vice President Harper: So with Reimagining Diversity, we’re still in the phase of reimagining and figuring out how we can do this better to actually produce a change in minority experiences.  It’s very similar to the mandatory SAPAC programs where this President (referring to Mary Sue Coleman) is the reason we have them—several years back we had had many issues and in re-thinking how we were handling it we ended up with our current SAPAC programs.

Mary Sue Coleman: So I think your experiences are the ones we need to be hearing so that we can take your input and incorporate it into our reimagining of diversity and how we approach it and the problems we’re experiencing. But your idea of the course is a good one and one I don’t believe we had thought of so we will definitely take that back.

Student: My goal is to have a sort of pre-orientation where students can meet their peers, have more time to be introduced to issues on campus, sustainability, etc.  It’s something I’ve been working towards for a few years with LSA Student Government and Office of New Student Programs.

Mary Sue Coleman: How did you go about that?

Same Student: We sent out post cards to parents and students.

Vice President Harper: I think that would go a long way towards creating a sense of community, but it sounds like the issue will always be resources and manpower.

Mary Sue Coleman: Did you have your event on campus?

Same Student: Not exactly, we had it at Argo Park so not far.  What we did was had students meet each other, discuss diversity, etc.

Student Safety- Alcohol and Sexual Assault

Student: A few weeks ago in the Student Health Advisory Board we were learning about the new medical amnesty laws.  But the problem is, even if students turn themselves in for alcohol treatment several times, there’s no way for UHS to keep track of them to get them the help they need.  So maybe we could implement something like AlcoholEDU that students complete multiple times throughout their careers was something we were thinking could be effective?

Vice President Harper: That is a great idea.

Mary Sue Coleman: Yes that’s a problem with medical amnesty where it’s difficult for us to ensure students with a real alcohol problem receive the help and treatment they need.

Vice President Harper: The challenge, quite frankly, is keeping policy and practice current.  We aren’t in the same place in life as all of you are, and so your input on these topics are very invaluable to us.

Student: I know in Markley we’ve tried to be very strategic about scheduling SAPAC and alcohol education around sorority and fraternity events as well to make sure people come and keep up their awareness especially during times like those.  It would really help us to get a central calendar of all their events so we can get the highest attendance for these programs as possible. We weren’t really able to find one.  

Student: What are your opinions on the mandatory reporting policies on sexual assault?

Vice President Harper: We’re in the process of vetting the policy. We’ve found that due to mandatory reporting we’ve seen an increase in the cases reported which is good.  We want to keep increasing education on the issues of sexual assault and about what’s going on on campus.

Mary Sue Coleman: what’s your opinion?

Student: My concern is that it might have a silencing effect on survivors where they might not want to talk if they’re afraid an investigation could be taken out of their hands.  Also, one of the leading reasons women transfer is because they were assaulted at their previous university, but the perps are almost never removed.  Since 97% of sexual offenders are repeat offenders, how can we get those people out of our community?

Vice President Harper: Right now our stance is to investigate and then have the sanctions tailored based on the outcome.

Mary Sue Coleman: I’ve been very impressed with the University and the responses of individuals here where people have done their absolute best to come to the situation with no pre judgments and to treat both parties as fairly as possible and separating the individuals.  So I can tell you this: the university takes this VERY seriously, and we do our best to handle things in the most balanced way so that no one’s life is unjustly ruined while simultaneously delivering the best, most responsible outcome for all of our students. 

Student: I’m an international student from China.  I think it would be a great idea if there were international student programs where instead of putting all the people from one foreign place in a single group, you mixed us up.  That way there isn’t the fear of being the only one in a group of all American students, but we’re also experiencing something different from the culture we just came from. 

Student: I’m on out of state student, and I feel there’s limited resources for us.  It sounds crazy, but it’s actually cheaper for me to do a semester abroad in Spain or Washington than to stay in Michigan.

Mary Sue Coleman: We’re very proud of the fact that for in state students we’ve been able to provide financial aid to meet all the needs.  So far we haven’t been able to do the same thing for out of state students.  That’s something we’re focusing on in our Capital Campaigns, and in the next one we’ll be putting a spotlight on out of state students.