ASCSM discusses freshmen, graduate student issues

Graduate students and future freshmen were the topics of discussion at the November 4 meeting of the Associated Students of the Colorado School of Mines (ASCSM).

The meeting began, after some bantering among the participants, with a presentation from guest speaker Dan Fox, Vice President of Student Life at CSM and member of the residential campus committee created by the university president to improve the CSM residential experience.  He began by answering three previously posed questions.

Fox was firm in his answer to the first question, “What do you think about freshmen being forced to live on campus?”  Fox supported this measure, and explained, “Nationally and on our campus, there’ve been quite a few studies done that show that students who live on campus their first year…tend to transition better in the sense that they have higher levels of satisfaction, they do better academically, and they are retained at better level.”  According to university statistics, commuter first-year students are much more likely to leave the institution, and Fox believes this is because they are not as involved in campus life.  As a part of an ongoing effort to improve the residential and overall student experience at CSM, Fox supports the new policy that freshmen must live on campus.
In answer to the second question, “Do you think freshmen should be banned from having a car on campus?,” Fox stated, “I do think it’s something that we [the residential campus committee] will seriously consider, but it is still up for debate right now.”  Although nothing has been finalized, he suggested that this would make immersing students in campus activities easier, and enhance their experience by removing them from their comfort zone.  He also recognized the logistical difficulties of this, positing that further practical, green transportation might be necessary. 

For the third question, “Do you want freshmen to park in commuter lots only?,” Fox deferred to facilities management, but did offer input stating that “next fall those folks who live in what I would call the main  campus residence halls, the traditional residence halls, Weaver Towers, and Maple Hall [the new residence hall]…they would be parking in the former freshmen and ford lots, which are now commuter parking.”  He noted this arrangement will not apply to those living in Mines Park or the residence halls at Mines Park.  Their parking will be the same as it was this year.

Having provided some background information, Fox took questions from the members of ASCSM.  A major issue, raised by several participants, was exemptions – who would be able to not reside on campus.  Fox stated that no exemption criteria have been finalized, but likely exemption candidates include those who are over 21 years of age, married, the primary caregiver to a child, former military personnel, those who have resided on a college campus for at least two semesters, and possibly those who live with a legal guardian within a small radius of campus.  He stressed these exemptions are still in the development phase, and have not been decided on.  One member asked about how spaces in Maple Hall would be assigned and if upperclassmen would be allowed to live there.  Fox explained that some rooms would be assigned on a first come, first serve basis to freshman and some would be allocated to upperclassmen by lottery.  Concern was expressed by several members, especially the Board of Student Organizations (BSO) about weekend activities.  Fox explained the increase in students living on campus would also increase money available for weekend activities funded by CSM, not the (BSO) specifically. 

Fox concluded his presentation by saying, “I won’t promise we’ll do it all right or all perfect, but I am certainly only behind this…from the standpoint of trying to make the experience for students better.”  He then left to thunderous applause and the meeting transitioned to its secondary focus, a resolution from the Graduate Student Association (GSA) proposing a separation of the GSA from ASCSM.

The GSA gave a presentation explaining providing background to their proposal.  GSA president Zach Aman said of the proposal, “It deals with how the two bodies [GSA and ASCSM] work with each other…Essentially, the motivation for it is that the GSA traditionally has not done a really good job of addressing the needs of graduate students.”  There were 5  total stipulations of the proposal (not all of which were contained in the resolution later voted on by ASCSM).  The first was the removal of GSA members from voting seats on the ASCSM budget committee and in ASCSM generally. The second was recognition that “ASCSM is a group of and for the undergraduate body, whereas GSA is a governing group of and for the graduate body.” The third was the creation of a President’s Advisory Council composed of faculty members from a variety of disciplines (including administration), undergraduate students, and graduate students.  The fourth was the addition of at-large representatives from each governing body to other governing bodies, and the fifth was the creation of a joint operating agreement.
After Aman finished explaining the proposal, attention shifted to the official ASCSM Resolution.  It began by offering its thesis, “GSA should become their own Governing Body  to better supplement and support the Graduate Student population.”  It then outlined specific changes including, “that GSA be removed from all voting positions on the ASCSM Executive Council, ASCSM Senate, and Budget Committee.”  It also mandated the creation of a joint operating agreement and that the bylaws committee amend the bylaws in spring of 2011 to take into account the changes.  Finally, it required ASCSM to recognize GSA as a governing body in control of the graduate student activity fee.

The issue was put to a vote and passed easily.  The meeting then adjourned almost immediately.  The November 4 meeting of ASCSM successfully covered the extremes of a CSM education – freshman and graduate students.

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