Have you had a chance yet to chat with the President of the University of Michigan? Once a month during most of Fall and Winter Terms, President Mark Schlissel and Vice President for Student Life E. Royster Harper invite interested students to a Fireside Chat. It’s a special opportunity for students to join a candid conversation with the university’s leadership, on the topics that are important to you.
Fireside Chats are purposefully kept small to allow for interaction and conversation (often 30 students or so). To request an invitation, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read on for the notes from the November 2015 Fireside Chat.
President Schlissel: I would like to thank you all for coming to this Fireside Chat today. I have been doing this for a year now and it’s never been with a fireplace. What do you think we should we focus on this year and anything else you want to talk about for an hour.
Student: Can I ask a couple of questions? As a Masters Student of Applied Economics, it is hard to meet people from different Masters programs. Is there any suggestions as to how to combat that?
President Schlissel: The Munger Residence Hall, donated by an alum. Contains all suites of 7-single bedrooms for graduate and professional students to get to know one another across disciplines. On the undergrad level getting to know each other across disciplines is taken care of by clubs and organizations.
Student: They’ve been working to create more mixers amongst graduate students.
President Schlissel: Do you have any suggestions?
Vice President Harper: I’m making a note to get in contact with Rackham Student Government. I think that would be a good idea to speak with them.
Student: I am an exchange student in the School of Public Policy. Last week I participated in ride along program with the University of Michigan Police Department. I believe that we should share master keys more widely, instead of only a few people holding on to the keys.
President Schlissel: Having more master keys, would be risky to security. It would lead to problems with safety. I would like to hear more about this ride along. I’ve been too afraid to go on one of those ride-alongs myself.
Student: There was a lot of underage drinking by high school students on campus.
Vice President Harper: So there’s a lot of problems with underage high school drinking on campus?
Student: I believe it’s important to have preventive drinking measures for high school students coming on to campus.
President Schlissel: What is your opinion on campus police? Do we get the whole policing thing right?
Student: During my freshman year, a friend of mine and I had an experience with DPS. We felt really comfortable with them, when my friend had an issue with drinking. I believe DPS does a good job of making students feel comfortable to come to them when they have a problem.
President Schlissel: When you call DPS there’s more of a chance you get helped and not reprimanded.
Student: Once you have an interaction with public safety you feel better about a relationship with them. I’ve never personally had a problem with them, but I have friends who have had problems with department of public safety. Right now I’m remembering the alcohol education that I received freshman year, it didn’t really prepare me for dealing with my friends when I’m drunk and they are drunk. I think there should be better education for students to learn how to deal with the police.
Student: Coming from Greek Life, I believe that asking AAPD to come in and provide information would really help with that. More student organizations should reach out and ask for the individual sessions with the Police Department.
President Schlissel: This year we’ve started joint patrols between DPS and AAPD.
Student: I’m an exchange student in Mechanical Engineering. The style of classes here are very different from the UK. In the UK classes are more about depth and the classes here are more about breadth. There are two sections of the same class taught differently. The exams and homework are completely different and they are also learning the material at different times. How can you regulate classes so that they are taught the same?
President Schlissel: There are some classes that are broken down into smaller groups based upon the types of students who are in the section. Although I do see how you could have a real disadvantage of being in a good section vs. bad section. I am not sure I want faculty to teach the same thing as one another. To impose one professor’s view on another is kind of wrong.
Student: But to have a fundamentally different approach to the same concept?
President Schlissel: Make sure you give those professors feedback.
Student: Why don’t you send students abroad for longer than a semester? Sometimes students just take the semester as a vacation instead of actually an opportunity for additional education?
President Schlissel: Well students are balancing the cost of what they are missing here as opposed to what they would gain overseas.
Vice President Harper: How has the University of Michigan been so far?
Student: The humor is different here. The Midwest is good and Ann Arbor is very liberal. My residence hall, Couzens, has good connections and communications for new students. It makes freshman students feel more part of the family and allows them the ability to grow. In the UK we had to already have our concentrations declared. I love how you’re able to still work on choosing your career path.
Student: I have a question about Greek Life, 80% of my chapter attended that mandatory meeting in Hill Auditorium. Based upon things that I’ve heard you don’t expect Greek Life to be here in 20 years. I would hope that in 30-35 years that my kids would be able to be part of Greek life here. President Schlissel, what do you think?
President Schlissel: I hope that’s not the case. It provides a good social role on campus, makes a large place feel smaller. It organizes community building. I’m just nervous about the extremes of behavior. Currently, we’re on a trend to continue this risky behavior. It’s up to the students themselves to help the system thrive and not participate in such risky behavior.
Student: A lot of students in Greek Life feel scapegoated when it comes to the partying because it seems as if you are ignoring the other unregulated parties.
President Schlissel: This is easily a concern, yeah some parts of Greek Life may be scapegoated. The risky behavior is greater in Greek Life. There are studies that show that binge drinking and sexual misconduct are greater in Greek Life. It’s unfair to say that this is the only place that it happens. It just happens more frequently there than in other communities on campus. It also could be because I was a nerd in college, but the epitome of social life shouldn’t be getting too drunk to stand up. When that occurs it puts you at risk for bad things to happen. I don’t fantasize that students will stop drinking but I hope that drinking to excess wouldn’t be a problem.
Student: My question is regarding tuition, there’s a report of tuition increases each year before the fall semester. Last year there was a 3% tuition increase. Are there any plans to decrease tuition or lower the increase of tuition?
President Schlissel: we’ve received the same amount of money since 1997 with inflation it’s the same since 1964. The state taxpayers believe that the cost of going to college should be on the student not the state. Our goal is to keep the rate of increase near the rate of inflation. The cost of attendance hasn’t increased in the last 8 years. The goal is if you’re from Michigan and you get in the rising costs should be covered with financial aid. We try to keep the business part of the university inexpensive so we can invest it in other resources.
Student: I am an in-state student and I was wondering how are the exam schedules planned? My family lives out of the country for half the year and my parents bought my plane ticket in July but I have an exam that’s scheduled for the 21st of December and my ticket was for the 19th. Now I can’t get a flight out until after Christmas, leaving me without my family on Christmas Day.
President Schlissel: There’s a certain number of days of instruction. We had to have exams that late because we wanted to keep the tradition of starting after Labor Day. Do professors make an exception?
Student: No my professor wasn’t accommodating. They said there as noting they could do and I need this class for major so I can graduate.
President Schlissel: This happens every 4-5 years. We have a short winter break here. At Brown the new semester typically starts at the end of January. But, we get out earlier, so we get a jump on internships and jobs that other students don’t have.
Vice President Harper: Let’s talk after this. Maybe we can try to move this around. I could tell by your voice that it’s really affecting you.
Student: If we were to get rid of fall break would it increase winter break?
President Schlissel: We took a survey, and a slight majority of people wanted to keep the fall break. We did consider having exams on Sundays but students didn’t like that idea.
Student: I am a Masters Student. I believe the School of Public Health is a better community then undergrad programs here. Professors want you to succeed more. I receive a lot more information as a Masters student then I did while I was in undergrad here.
President Schlissel: Part of that is that Masters Professors think that you are more invested on a Graduate level because you’ve solely chosen to focus on their life’s work. Unlike in undergrad, where students are not as heavily invested.
Student: How is my humanities degree helping me in the real world? Do you have any advice for students who aren’t in those stem fields to find jobs?
President Schlissel: There is a lot of discussions on humanities because STEM fields seem to be finding jobs easier. Our humanities programs are doing better here than other disciplines outside of STEM. Typically with a humanities degree your first job isn’t your last job. The first job is supposed to show your adaptability to a job and help you get other jobs. A good friend of mine, who is the CEO of Bank of America told me that STEM people are a dime a dozen, those in humanities are more creative and they are typically hard to find.
Student: Is there any other recourses we have for students who aren’t in Ross or Engineering?
President Schlissel: A problem we face is having decentralized schools, so each school has their own resources for their particular students.
Vice President Harper: Emersion excursions, through the Career Center. It allows students the opportunity to tour companies and hopefully gain employment or internship opportunities through it. Most students get their jobs out of an internship. What are you thinking about doing?
Student: I’m not sure about going to law school. I want a chance to have a job that will support me well enough while I try to figure out the rest.
Vice President Harper: I would encourage you to go to the Career Center. We all want a chance to go back. Between now and April there’s still time to make choices and decisions. PeaceCorps and Teach for America are both great too.
President Schlissel: What is the best way to convey information to students? Some say Facebook is good. Others say it’s outdated. I just learned to tweet.
Vice President Harper: Snapchat.
President Schlissel: What is the best way to get out to students?
Student: I think you should get a snapchat channel it worked really on North Campus. I follow the Engineering and Athletics snapchat channels and it really helped to unite both of these communities.
Vice President Schlissel: In a year there’s going be a new medium.
Student: Stress. The abuse of study drugs on campus, antidepressants and Adderall mixed together is becoming commonplace.
Vice President Schlissel: Stress is getting worse as you’re going through college. There’s a cumulative pressure starting when students are 6 years old. More students are showing up medicated. It doesn’t serve any purpose to make the university easier because it won’t help prepare for the real world but I do believe students need to understand what resources they have available to them.
Student: Wolverine Support Network is good for students, it kind of serves as an overflow from CAPS. We need more hire staff in CAPS.
Vice President Harper: We hire more staff during the peak time. It’s just hard to keep up with the demand. CAPS is trying to reinvent itself so that students have to wait no longer than a week to meet with someone.
Student: To get more students to study abroad would be to make it cheaper.
Student: I went to Prague where you don’t pay Michigan tuition. I had financial aid that helped. If I would’ve went to Turkey, as an out of state student I would’ve had to pay for both the tuition here and the University there.
President Schlissel: You shouldn’t have to pay for both.
Student: I plan to study abroad this summer. There’s a lot of fees and not a lot of meshing between the departments when it comes to fees and such.
Student: Sorry I would like to go back to stress. Coming in as a freshman, there’s a culture shock. There’s a large emphasis on going to CAPs, when there should be an emphasis finding individual things that help alleviate stress, such as running or listening to music.
President Schlissel: When I get stressed out I walk across the diag. It helps remind me why I’m here.
Student: I attended Harvard for undergrad and I felt as if they didn’t have enough resources for anything because we were all supposed to be happy just to go there. Do you have any specific plans to create more support for stress and counseling on top of everything.
President Schlissel: You can never provide enough support for students but that doesn’t give drive the cost of going here up to price of going to Harvard.
Vice President Harper: We need to figure out this gap between what resources we have here and how to get it to students who need them.
Student: Since there are a lot of new renovations on campus, are there plans to make the university more accessible for students with disabilities? I’m a Masters Student in the College of Education so I only really spend my time there. I have Cerebral Palsy but it’s inconvenient that there’s only one elevator on one side of the building.
President Schlissel: As we renovate buildings we upgrade their accessibility for students with disabilities. I don’t believe we have been working through every point of view with disability.
Student: I have a response about communication, regarding face to face interactions with advisors. There’s a large dichotomy between advisors. Some share certain information others don’t really know the information. I feel as if they are constantly telling us to look online for the answers. So I believe there should be a review of the advising process. Sometimes it feels as if its inconvenience to advisors.
Vice President Harper: Ok I am taking note of that.
Student: There isn’t a lot of accessibly in the Union. Are there any ideas for that? I am a tour guide to a lot of prospective students with disabilities and the lack of accessibility doesn’t send a positive message for them to want to come here.
Vice President Harper: With every renovation, the plans are given to the accessibility expert. When the renovations are almost complete we have a student with disability try it out to make sure that it makes sense. The plans for the Union and its changes in accessibility have not been discussed yet. I’ve seen the plans for the IM building and the front of it is definitely more accessible.
Student: I would just like to say that these sessions are very helpful and fantastic and I am very thankful for being selected to be a part of it.
President Schlissel: I would like to thank you all for coming. I read every email that comes to me from students. If you follow up with me, I will try my best to make sure it’s accomplished during the time that I am here. I set aside office hours every three weeks for students to come in and speak to me for fifteen minutes, so please take advantage of that.