Office of the Vice President for Student Life
Fireside Chat of October 8th, 2014
Vice President Harper: As you can probably tell, I am not the president (laughs)
President Schlissel: Hi Everyone. My wife and I went apple picking this weekend and so one thing that always happens at the end of apple picking is you wonder “what am I going to do with all these apples?” (laughs) and so I brought them for you all, so feel free to help yourselves to some!
President Schlissel: Thank you all for coming out to this Fireside Chat. This is a place for Royster and I to find out what students think- what you all think we do well and shouldn’t change and what could we do better. I’m also happy to tell you how I think about things even though I am still forming thoughts as I’ve only been here since July. The chats really are helping to serve as an ongoing dialogue and we really want to keep this as an ongoing process. I’m most anxious to learn about athletics. Although I wasn’t home for the 1000 people who showed up on my lawn (laughs) I’m open to hear more about what students think. I know everyone has their own opinions but I want to hear from students because you’re the ones I feel most responsible for and most responsible to. If you don’t want to talk about athletics, that’s great (laughs) but I am definitely open to those conversations.
Athletics Sexual Assault Policies
Alex: Has there been any news around changes in the policies around sexual assault misconduct in Athletics? As far as I know they don’t have a policy and aren’t working on one, even after the Gibbons situation last year.
President Schlissel: So Athletics doesn’t have their own policy for handling sexual assault- they don’t get to make one, we do. The English department, Police, anyone who is a part of our University falls under our university policy established and approved by the Regents. I’m not an expert in the Gibbons case but I do know my job is to make sure people on campus are safe and if we need to change policies or if people have smarter ways to do things, we can change them. But Athletics is a part of the University and athletes should not be treated different, especially in situations such as that.
Alex: I was more concerned about them being able to play even if they are being investigated.
President Schlissel: That’s an interesting point and I don’t know the policy on that, I will try to figure out. Royster, do you know?
Vice President Harper: So it’s situation specific. For example, we make classroom accommodations for students who are victims and charged. It’s a delicate balance we have to strike trying to treat every person the same way.
Student Frustrations with Athletics
Student: I think a major issue a lot of students are having is with the ticket prices. And if you think about it, that’s affecting future donations and really spoiling the image of the U for these future alumni.
Nathan: I think prices are a part of it but the seating policy change also had a large part to do with it, especially amongst rising upperclassmen because a lot of us felt like we had a guarantee pulled from under us.
President Schlissel: So the policy changed with no consultation- for the worse in student opinions- is that a fair summary?
Nathan: Yeah. And they tried to compensate with donuts before the game and stuff, but that’s not what we care about- we care about going to the game and watching our team with our friends.
President Schlissel: We’re learning we need to make it less like a business worried about the bottom line and more like a part of what it means to go to Michigan.
Jay: Hi, I’m Jay, I’m a 5th year senior who was in the Michigan Marching Band. I’m no longer a member- so nothing I say reflects the opinion of the band- but I’ve found extreme value in getting students to the game earlier. I noticed this year the cheers haven’t been happening as much. The band eats, drink, and sleeps school spirit and it’s sort of a let down when the student section doesn’t know what to do. I think maybe it’s just that the freshman haven’t served their time in the back and don’t know the traditions (laughs)
President Schlissel: I can empathize with those students (laughs)
Jake: I’m more interested on hearing your thoughts on the leadership in athletics. From what I can see, we’re struggling to have a unified voice on just about everything. Where is the leadership going?
President Schlissel: I’m responsible for Athletics and determining the leadership, yes, and for holding them accountable to not forgetting about the academics what their students are here for. From what I have seen and heard so far is that this feeling towards Athletics didn’t begin nine days ago- it has been percolating for a while. I’ve meet with Student Athlete Council (SAAC), I’ve talked to the Regents and many other groups trying to learn more about this and there are definitely aspects that the people I feel responsible to don't think are going in the right direction and I think we need to reset how we’re doing it, regardless of the leadership. In terms of the people in leadership, I think it’s such a knee jerker to say fire the boss when in fact that might not change anything if I don’t understand the problems and try to get the right culture going within the program.
The Work of the President and Vice President
Eberechi: I wanted to move the conversation off of athletics for a minute-
President Schlissel: (mouths) Thank you (laughs)
Eberechi: I know the President is responsible for enforcing the different policies of the University, in general. But what policies do you find yourself responsible for and how do you do it?
President Schlissel: Overall, I’m responsible for us having good policies and how we use them but a major part of that work is me holding other people accountable as well. We have people responsible for researching and forming these policies, others responsible for enforcing them at different levels and a lot of the work I do is supervise a chain of people in all those areas. I should be judged on if I enforce accountability for those policies.
Eberechi: Same question to you Royster.
Vice President Harper: Really a lot of the same circumstances. Most of the time it’s other people’s responsibility to work on and enforce our policies. I focus on having conversations about how to “right size” it, in other words how is what we want to do... what’s the implication for students? You can write a policy and formulate it, but is it doing what we intended? We have a way of being that is if it affects students they should have a voice in it and when there’s a miss- we try to find out what happened and also look for unintended consequences and- if we’re fortunate- we have students like all of you who say they care and speak to us about it and we review the policies and in that sense the process is really iterative, not linear.
Too Many Students, Too Little Space
Zach: One concern I have, and a lot of other students I’ve talked to, is the student population increasing without physical resources- like room space in the Ugli for studying- increasing with them and a lot of us are feeling pushed out.
President Schlissel: This is an interesting topic- I hadn’t really heard about this. I’m more impressed by all the building that goes on on this campus. I did know student population has gone up and now there appears to be some perceived mismatch between the student population and the spaces they can use.
Zach: Well, most of the renovations have been for business and athletics.
President Schlissel: That’s a great point, we’ll put it on the table. I know that LS&A gets a lot of focus because they have so many students- about 45% of our campus. I also noticed the quality of unions that have some good study spaces
Student: A problem with those are that they are usually locked
President Schlissel: Ah, ok. Thanks, this is definitely something we’ll look into.
Student Safety Concerns
Student: I actually wanted to talk about the Chemistry Building gun scare. What steps are being taken to address the alerts delay that many students experienced, especially students who were in the area?
President Schlissel: We are currently under reviews of the situation and ROTC acknowledges it was a screw up on their part and it won’t happen again. The purpose of texts and emails, to my knowledge, is to alert the rest of the campus- not necessarily the people there because we don't want the immediate response team to have to deal with people in the way. But my good friend Eddie Washington is here, who may be able to speak to the situation a little more.
Eddie Washington: We are aware that the info sent out was alarming and have gotten other feedback on it as well, such as it included no actionable instructions and things of that nature and of course the timing but that is a practical reality of an alert notification system. Our primary focus is that if there is a threat we can respond to it- that’s what we train to do. The second layer to that is notification of the students- not for you to help neutralize the threat but more to avoid the area of our response teams can do their jobs without worrying about civilians as well. We see now that we need to do a better job of educating students on what that notification system is designed for.
President Schlissel: For other ways to be safe- such as locks on classrooms- if there was compelling evidence that it would save lives we would make the investment but my understanding is that it is not as cut and dry.
Eddie Washington: We’re examining that as well but then you also have fire hazards that become an issue with the doors locking when they aren’t and such.
Julia: Could there then be some sort of notification system for the instructors then so that we are made aware? I know a lot of LS&A classrooms, at least have podiums that could possibly receive alerts? If we can’t send it to all the students in time.
Eddie Washington: That’s a great idea, it’s something we will look into.
Addressing Student’s Concerns with Athletics
Sam: To get back to athletics- for me going to a game with friends is one of the greatest experiences at Michigan and I have a lot of friends who have tickets and feel they have to boycott to get the athletic director’s attention- what would you say to them?
President Schlissel: Our obligation is to support the team. Be pissed at the director- fine- but support the students. They’re trying, they’re practicing, these are world class athletes and I believe the anger should not be on the players. Holler at me on my lawn for a lot of things, but why target your classmates? We have to support them. Talk to your classmates about that.
Sam: Is there any way you could send out an email about it or something like that?
President Schlissel: We’re considering it and I’ve also been thinking of leading the student section to a game- possibly the homecoming game- and so that’s something we’re also looking into.
Learning About Rape Culture
Student: How are students learning about rape culture other than in the inclusive language campaign? I know RA’s and restaff get a lot of education on it in other ways. Are those also ways students will learn about it any time soon?
President Schlissel: So we’re just starting to work on this. The ILC is just the beginning, as these have to be reinforced multiple times and not just for freshman and we realize that society is not going to solve these issues for our campus and so we have to try new things, continue to message. We’re also concerned about the overuse of alcohol and how it plays into these assaults and that’s a correlation we’re looking into more deeply as well.
Being Covered- Student Health Insurance
Student: Hi. I’m a biochem student who was injured last year and when I came to Michigan’s hospital found out that the student insurance I paid for didn’t cover what had happened. I also have noticed that the student insurance price has been increasing. Is there anyway to looking into shifting what is covered, especially with the prices hikes?
President Schlissel: My understanding is that people pay into the policy of what is covered but we don’t make any money off of it and so then we break even so I’m not sure about expanding services or the cost. What I should find out is about a number for people to call who haven’t been treated well. Considering how large our system is, I’m sure it must have something like that.
Vice President Harper: You could also look into contacting Bob Winfield, he the University’s chief medical officer and he’s also a great physician.
Affordable Housing for Students
Student: One thing I wanted to bring up was the cost of rent for off-campus housing increasing. I know the new housing being developed isn’t really affordable for most students on campus and I was wondering if there are any plans to address more affordable housing near campus or perhaps more support for commuting students?
Vice President Harper: So this came up in the #BBUM campaign last year and one thing we’ve worked on is getting an emergency fund for transportation. We also looked into helping students pay for off-campus housing but there are some legal implications around subsidizing that we weren’t aware of, so it’s definitely something we need to do some more thinking about.
Student Orgs and Venues
Katie: I was curious if there have been any student led initiatives or clubs that have surprised you?
President Schlissel: I honestly don’t think I know enough of them yet. The ones I have seen seem to be excited about very similar things- the environment, entrepreneurship, I’d have to think hard about some novel ones though. I most definitely have seen plenty of passion. What’s your favorite?
Katie: Music Matters
President Schlissel: Ah! One thing that is a great surprise to me is that there’s so much music here at the university and in Ann Arbor and such great venues for it!
Student: One issue I wanted to bring up sort of related to student groups is about organizations being able to rent venues through places like the Union and athletic facilities. A lot of times, and maybe I’m just speaking from my experience with DMUM, it feels like student organizations are treated like any other outsider wanting to use these spaces and I was wondering if somehow we could get some benefits or priority?
President Schlissel: Another concern I wasn’t really aware of that we can discuss.
President Schlissel: So that’s my time. Don’t forget to take some apples and thanks for coming out!