Office of the Vice President for Student Life
Fireside Chat of November 17th, 2014
Student: How do you like your house?
President Schlissel: It’s actually really nice. I do actually live there, which a surprises a lot of people. There’s not too much noise on South U and I like being able to look out the window at the Lawyers Club and see all the things happening and being able to walk to work is nice (laughs). It is also a nice set up for receptions for faculty, students, or donors who we host all on the first floor and then the top 2 floors are living spaces for me and my family. My oldest daughter go to pick her room first in this house and she picked the guest room and it blew her mind that she’s sleeping in a bed the Dalai Lama has slept in. She has to up her game (laughs).
President Schlissel: Thanks for coming everyone. This is one of the more enjoyable parts of my job and I appreciate you taking the time to come and chat with us. I’m happy chat about anything you’d like and am always open to advice about how to make Michigan better and I’d also love to listen as much as I talk. So, who wants to get us started.
North Campus Woes
Aditi: Hi, my name is Aditi. I’m a business major and a CA in Baits II. I know the university has made about $63 million renovations on South Quad, $200 million on West Quad, but uey on North Campus there are still plenty of issues. For instance, transportation has been a huge issue and I find it offensive that the administration is not doing much on north campus dorms. Why is that?
President Schlissel: We know that the quality of living on North is not the same and not as high as on central by many people’s standards and you’re right, hundreds of millions has been done on central, but North Campus is next. We’re not rich enough to do everything simultaneously so making our way around. We’ve also begun discussions about what it would take to improve the quality of life on North, both in residence halls and other structures to make it so people don’t feel like they need to come to central for things outside of classes. One idea has been to make a new building that is a student-focused space, not exactly like Pierpont. We realize we have to make it more of a community. And on the buses, you’re absolutely right- I rode it. It takes a long time, it’s a pain to have to go back and forth and we’re completely open to ideas on how to make that better. But its turn is coming.
Vice President Harper: And the reason it’s last is that Bursley was the newest dorm when we started these renovations- I know that must blow your mind (laughs). But before we started these renovations, it had been 43 years since any of these buildings had been touched. So we started with the worst first and we just need bursley to hold on a little longer (laughs), but the reason it has taken so long is that the newer they were the longer it would take to get to them.
Aditi: Are there any short term solutions in place?
President Schlissel: I think that heating bus shelters to make them more supportive is a great idea and if it isn’t prohibitively expensive, we’ll consider it.
Vice President Harper: That’s what we’re hoping with round three. So, smaller renovations leading up to making North campus this community we want it to be. Even with the Fireside Café, our goals was to get that up for when we do renovate to add to when we need it.
Accessibility on Campus
Ashley: Hi, my name is Ashley. I think it’s great that the renovations are happening but I have noticed that there are no accessibility for people in wheelchairs. They have to have others open the door for them as apparently there aren’t any automatic door opener buttons for them I was told that students are given remotes, but what about other disabled people who can’t access our buildings because of this policy? I know, for myself, Bursley was completely inaccessible because of a back problem I have where I can’t take that many stairs but the only access to Bursley’s dining hall is by staircase.
President Schlissel: We’d need to know why those decisions were made- I’m thinking probably security- but it’s definitely something we can look further into.
Making Busing Better
Kate: Hi, my name is Kate. I live on Central, but go to North for class- I’m a student in the School of Music Theatre and Dance- and there seem to be less buses coming less frequently and for students just going to class that is causing some issues. I know I’ve seen it where buses won’t stop at Pierpont and will just pass by saying that they are too full, which is fine, I guess, for students living in the dorms, but very inconvenient for students just going to class.
President Schlissel: Do we have an iPhone app or something for you to track the bus on your phone?
Aditi: Yes, we do, but google maps is more accurate. It’s not great though at certain times, like on the weekend and it could also be useful during peak times to have more buses.
President Schlissel: So it’s really a matter of figuring out how to best deploy our resources, which might come at the cost of less service at non-peak times, and you all think that’s a trade of students would be okay with?
Students: (nods of approval)
Ashley: I wanted to talk about the dining hall on North campus. I’ve found that the food quality tends to be lower in Bursley than in central campus options and I was curious as to why?
President Schlissel: I’m not sure. We would have to ask. It may be a difference from the fact that the residence halls on central have newer kitchen facilities, but there’s no reason we couldn’t get close though.
Drinking on Campus
Evan: Hi, I’m Evan. I work as the door guy at Charlie’s on the weekends and I also live near the Greek life neighborhood and I see a lot of issues with underaged drinking- and drinking in general- on campus. For instance there’s been numerous nights where people will come and just vomit on my porch and then go party more. What’s being done to mitigate risks from underaged drinking besides Stay in the Blue and Alcoholedu?
President Schlissel: We do have other programs that are running throughout the year. We’re working in Greek Life and also have counseling programs. But, the things we’re doing aren’t working well enough, we see that. We discussing with DPS on how to gradually ramp up enforcement with the goal of cutting back on the extreme cases. But we also know a lot of those behaviors happen off campus and are happening in places we can’t get to students engaging with them. What are some of the best or most effective ways you can think of to handle it?
Evan: The leading theory is to let it happen from what I know. Scientists are saying that acknowledging it and the risks would help students make better decisions. Displaying the consequences to students and being specific, might help because I think a lot of kids don’t see the risks- they blackout but think it’s ok- but the consequences are there; MIPs, hospital bills.
Vice President Harper: So we have AlcoholEDU, Stay in the Blue, we also have a program called Basic for students who have an MIP- it’s a mandatory workshop. But we’re also seeing more fake IDs and students come with the notion that drinking is what college is about.
President Schlissel: We’ve also been making investments in strong alcohol-free event alternatives.
Vice President Harper: Oh, yes! I completely forgot. We reduced move-in time, we also host UMix as an alternative for students on Friday nights. We’re in a panic though- this is a real challenge for us and you’re absolutely right if we say “don’t” students do. We need to find a balance between informing and preventing.
President Schlissel: Do you all think parents could be of any help? We’re getting mixed messages but it’s something we haven’t tried yet.
Evan: I think so. I mean, I grew up in a small suburb where everyone knew if you did something wrong. So if students don’t get those warnings and don’t learn safe habits in high school then the college thing Vice President Harper mentioned is really true.
Dental Student: I really agree with getting parents involved because I think it is more than knowledge about the risks. Students in the dental school are very knowledgeable about those risks but I still see my peers do it.
Meagan: I know Vice President Harper mentioned a lot and there’s also Wolverine Wellness does a lot of great work. But one thing Mary Jo says often is that info doesn’t change behaviors and I think that’s totally accurate. I think we need to have more short term goals and maybe work on getting more safety precautions in place- for instance I know a lot of students will use saferide if they think they’ve had too much to drink and that saves them a long walk home, most likely in a bad state.
President Schlissel: I think there’s a bit of a line in that we don’t want to encourage or enable the behavior though.
Greg: Hi, I’m Greg, a law student here. One thing good to combat all that maybe is targeting student leaders who may be providing alcohol and younger students may be trying to fit in with older students.
President Schlissel: That’s a good point.
Aditi: So, I’ve got two points. My first is- we’ve all heard about the West Virginia student who died from hazing- so are we just going to wait for a student to die?
President Schlissel: No, and we’re working with student leaders in Greek Life organizations to make sure they understand those behaviors aren’t acceptable here and are taking precautions against those risks.
Aditi: Ok. My second point is on this idea of role models. Some of the people in these positions may not be the best role models to begin with. For example the football player who just got taken out of the program for Domestic Violence charges.
President Schlissel: All the teams are working on this. Athletes get more counseling about this than anyone because they are under more scrutiny. I think the teams have strong structures to handle these issues and whether we can have them step up and be role models is something to consider a lot before asking that of them. It may not be fair- they should have a choice as to whether or not they step into that role. They also already have a lot on their plates just being athletes.
Samone: My name is Samone, I’m in the Nursing school. I think it all comes down to what the student wants. We often say things like they need better role models, or more info, no. We know these things and we know what alcohol does to us so at the end of the day it’s not about the good role models or parents or teachers and we don’t need to put that pressure on athletes. It’s all about our own decisions. It’s sad that we can’t tell people to stop so why are we focusing on something we can’t change; something that’s not in our power? You just have to let people do what they want.
President Schlissel: Well, no one listens to me anyways, so (laughs). There’s a lot I agree with there but a slight way I disagree is I think we can make a change in the culture- get less inhibited when out with friends, less social circle drinking- we’ve got to change the culture and how to fit in. I also really agree with all the points about education on the issues as well since I remember my kids going through all the alcohol awareness in high school- they were pounded with it, but still engaged in those activities in college.
Democracy In In-Action
Jacob: Hi, my name is Jacob. I was reading the Daily this past Friday and they were talking about how low voter turnout has been for these past elections. I know in my four years here it’s been hard to register to vote and I’m wondering how much that may impact low voter turnout in the area. Are there any steps the university can take to make voting more accessible to students? How do we get students civically engaged?
President Schlissel: In my experience at other schools, students take this responsibility really. Voter registration is usually taken up by students to get peers voting and making their voices heard.
Meagan: In Central Student Government, there’s a commission called Voice Your Vote that does a lot of that work.
Jacob: Yeah, but they’re the only ones allowed in residence halls. Otherwise, students can’t register in residence halls and some of those students have been known to misinform students. There are just a lot of hurdles.
President Schlissel: Then some students might want to vote at home. I can imagine a system where every incoming student gets the information they need on how to vote how they want and encourage a mechanism to help student submit their forms.
The Options We Need
Ayesha: Hi, my name’s Ayesha. I wanted to talk about the menus at Victors. I was wondering if we could increase halal or kosher food options? Well, put them there, really, since we only have labels for them but no food fitting the labels.
President Schlissel: That’s definitely something we can look into and fix.
Vice President Harper: Obviously people know we should have them (laughs)
Addressing Sexual Assault
Student: I’m curious how the administration is addressing the issue of sexual assault on campus?
President Schlissel: Well one thing we know we have to do is we have to build a community where the frequency is low and approaching zero and out rules and procedures have to be the best, and I'm confident they will be and I have confidence in what they are now, and we have make sure everyone understands them and they are adhered to. Then we need to be an environment where people feel comfortable coming forward and confident they will be addressed fairly. We have to work on prevention more than adjudication and we have a bunch of programs underway and more we can develop to that end as well.
Student: I know I don’t know too many resources for survivors on campus.
President Schlissel: We definitely need to communicate better.
Vice President Harper: So we start out at about a 98-99% return rate on sexassaultedu, which all freshman have to take before coming to Michigan and it talks about what consent is, sexual assault’s relationship with alcohol, and that’s all before students get here. Then, once you’re here, we have relationship remix for first year students to talk about having safe relationships and we are also working on teaching bystanders skills- for all first year students in residence halls- called Change it Up, which has a 85-90% response rate, including several make up sessions. So there’s a lot of work on educational and prevention. We also hosted a play, a great play, called Good Kids, which was designed to build awareness about this issue. Last week we also had our annual Speak Out event at SAPAC where survivors come and talk about their stories. We’re working on a Springtime arts program to raise awareness as well. We’re also working on getting out the sexual misconduct policy and always looking for different ways to educate and talk to students about healthy relationship. We have to be both progressive and aggressive about it.
President Schlissel: We’re also thinking about releasing statistics on data we’ll get through a survey of students to get the best understanding of the issues. We’ve gotten a lot of good suggestions recently- for example we have a lot of programs targeted at freshman, but we could be missing out by not hitting the community at multiple times in their Michigan career and we entirely miss transfer students.
Vice President Harper: We also have specific training in affinity groups- so Greek Life orgs, athletes, the bands are all examples- on sexual assault. We’re trying to look for in-tact communities and do some of that training to reduce these numbers and stop this violence on our campus. We also have a program called IMPACT, which is a course on learning about personal safety and being able to protect oneself. There’s also the It’s On Us and I Will campaigns working to raise awareness and educate students on the issue.
President Schlissel: So there’s a lot going on but we know we still have a long way to go.
Where’s Schlissel From Anyways?
Avi: I’m unfamiliar with your background. What did you do before Michigan?
President Schlissel: Well, immediately before I was President here I was the Provost at Brown. Before that I was the Dean for Biological Sciences at Berkeley and a faculty member at Johns Hopkins before that. I’ve been at academics for the last 30 years and it’s really the grand sum of those experiences that help me make the best of this experience. That and I’ve raised four kids and - a really long time ago- used to be a student (laughs).
Making the Most of Renovations
Jacob: Hi, my name is Jacob and I’m a part of a student group called Building a Better Michigan and I was wondering what the different strategies are to make sure the renovations we’re making to the dorms and around the university last and that we don’t have this situation again?
President Schlissel: Y’know, this place does the best of all the places where I have worked of balancing where our finances need to be to make it so we can continuously renew our infrastructure while still having great faculty. We try to balance our needs, which advocacy from students also helps us understand what is most important to most people, and make decisions about where to prioritize our funds. We don’t want it to be an arms race around having the best dorms and dining halls when the most of your experiences are around the great faculty and experiences so we try to find and keep that balance of updating our infrastructure while keeping everything else at Michigan great as well. I think we’ve done a great job of that so far and we’ll continue to get better.
A Few of Schlissel’s Favorite Things
Student: What’s your favorite thing about Michigan?
President Schlissel: I’d have to say my favorite things is- everyday- having the opportunity to take what I have learned and try to make things better for people; students, faculty, society even. Society is making a big investment in us, giving you a great era of your life, and my favorite part of my job is being able to take on that responsibility.
President Schlissel: Have a great rest of your semester and thanks, again, for coming!
See Michigan Daily Coverage of the chat at http://www.michigandaily.com/article/schlissel-talks-repairs-and-renovations-mondays-fireside-chat.