University of Illinois Senate Committee on University Student Life met Oct. 11.
Here is the minutes provided by the committee:
Present: Rummana Alam, Chair, Eden Brewer, Kelly Bridgewater, Vada Gregory, Charles Fogelman, and Lauren Provencher
Ex officio: Danita Brown Young, Stephen Bryan, Connor Josellis, Kathy Martensen, Absent: Payal Ahuja, Tiffany Bullard, Prasanta Kalita, Lynn Barnett Morris, Megan Tucker Zwilling
Guests: Alana Harris (Assistant Director for Student Wellness); Michelle Trame (Director of Student Financial Aid)
A regular meeting of the Senate Committee on University Student Life was called to order at 3:00 pm with Chair Alam presiding.
Introductions were made.
II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of the September 9, 2019 meeting was approved as distributed.
III. PUBLIC COMMENT
No requests received.
IV. CHAIR’S REMARKS
Chair Alam requested moving old business, revision to bylaws, to the first item. She provided an overview of the draft changes to the committee’s bylaws. Bridgewater moved approval, Fogelman seconded. Motion was approved unanimously.
New business was moved to be next on the agenda to allow time for presentations.
V. NEW BUSINESS
SL.20.02, Campus Wellness Presentation
Harris shared a presentation with the committee regarding food insecurity (see handout, SL.20.02).
Josellis asked if there are efforts to have a university-designated food pantry; UIC and UIS have this. Harris responded Eastern Illinois Foodbank deems the area “saturated,” so there is not an opportunity to partner with them. Many of the other pantries are faith-based, which can be limiting. Harris is continuing to look into this.
Fogelman asked about the lower rate of food insecurity at this institution compared to the Big 10. No specific causes or correlations are known, Harris replied.
Fogelman asked how the information on what resources are available is shared. Harris noted the focus is sharing what is available in the community. She said they are starting to publish this information on McKinley’s website, sharing with partners in Student Affairs for distribution, etc.
Brewer inquired about the definition of non-traditional student as referenced in the presentation. Harris and Brown Young said it essentially equates to not coming to the university directly from high school.
Alam asked what elements make certain resources considered “discriminatory.” Harris explained some are faith-based or for women only, for example.
Alam asked about the food waste app that was referenced. Harris stated it was developed here, it is used by Housing and Dining regularly.
Gregory in inquired about if/how communication via social media is used. Harris noted Campus Rec is on many of these platforms, as are many of the specific programs referenced in her presentation.
Alam asked how the Student Life Committee could help in these efforts. Harris said input on how to communicate to students, reviewing materials, helping get the word out would be helpful.
SL.20.03, Financial Aid Presentation
Trame shared a presentation with the committee regarding financial aid, cost of attendance, unmet student need, and changes to financial aid for the 2019-2020 academic year, and continuing challenges.
Josellis inquired about the amount of family debt at this institution compared to others. Trame explained there is not much information available, as many institutions are reluctant to share that information.
Brewer asked about help for middle-class families, for example, are there initiatives focused on taking away the expectation that parents can and will contribute? Trame responded the focus on middle-income families and how to provide more aid to this population continues in work with administration and advancement.
Fogelman wondered how our institution’s unmet need compares. Trame indicated this too is mostly unknown, as the majority of institutions are reluctant to share.
Fogelman asked if retention rates by income level are available? Trame said that although not currently, that is something that will likely be researched through the Student Success Initiative over the next few months.
Fogelman stated he has heard University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign financial aid award letters come out late in comparison with other institutions and wondered if that is a reality Trame provided the dates for award letters, noting this is generally in line with other Big 10 schools. Regional campuses in Illinois, less selective institutions do tend to send awards earlier. Highly selective schools send their letters later. Trame explained the decentralized nature and need to connect with the colleges for incorporation into an overall aid amount is a factor that takes time.
Brewer followed up on Trame’s comment in the presentation that confidential assistants available at the Office for Student Financial Aid, stating this presentation is the first time she has heard about this resource. Trame noted it is the same staff working at front desk and in the offices. She said she can work with her staff to make it standard that those who are at the front can let students know there is opportunity to meet with someone in an office/in a confidential environment if they wish.
Alam asked about unmet need and non-traditional students; specifically, is aid impacted by outside sources such as utilization of a food pantry? Trame explained it is a gray area. Cost of attendance does include allowance for room and board. Some students do have aid up to that cost of attendance. When these students are going to another organization to get meals or other types of assistance, it does come into question. This would be one example of why having a food pantry connected with the institution could potentially negatively impact students’ aid.
Alam asked where the gap is in having students who are food insecure when the average income of our students’ families is on the higher end and given the financial aid provided. If we have students on campus who are food insecure, where is that coming from? Trame responded it is not coming from the allowance provided, it is likely coming from those cases where institution cannot meet the student’s need (the unmet need).
Alam inquired if the percentage of students with unmet need is known. Trame indicated it is not a specific data point, but likely most students.
VI. VICE CHANCELLOR FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS UPDATES (Brown Young)
Brown Young noted the Massmail from the chancellor sent earlier this week is creating lots of attention. She provided some context for the incident in the residence hall that was referenced in that message. She said the incident and the Massmail has generated letters from legislators, bias incident reports, etc. Student Affairs staff continue to work to help students understand time and place to be an advocate versus when you are acting as an employee. Mandatory meetings need to be viewpoint-neutral. She pointed out that the swastikas found on campus feed into these issues. The institution as a whole needs to do a better job of inclusion and diversity training.
VII. ISG PRESIDENT UPDATES (Josellis) Josellis shared the following updates:
ISG has been working with student groups who were upset at the chancellor’s email. Some of these groups will be meeting with the chancellor on Monday.
Monday’s Environmental Quad Day was successful.
There is a former Mascot buyback program coming up, students can exchange merchandise with the Chief on it for current Illinois merchandise. The plan is to continue to offer such opportunities on an ongoing basis.
ISG is putting together a leadership development program and a student advocate program for those going through disciplinary hearings.
ISG is putting together a resolution to endorse the state legislation on college athletes receiving money.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:04 p.m.