Giovanna Z. Rinaldo
Students, faculty and deans of different departments gathered Monday to participate in the first ever Deans Forum, three coordinated discussion panels organized by the Associated Students of the University of La Verne to address student’s academic questions and concerns, and provide a platform to debate them.
The College of Arts and Sciences met with respective students at the Campus Center Ballroom A, next to the forum for the LaFetra College of Education in the Ballrooms B,C and D. The College of Business and Public Management assembled at La Fetra Lecture Hall.
The format of the forum included questions preselected by each ASULV department senators followed by a question and answer session open to the audience.
Deans and faculty members were free to respond or comment on answers on a voluntary basis.
Among the discussions in the College of Arts and Sciences, the recurring theme was diversity.
Concerns included a wider department enforcement of community hour, more diverse classes for each department, expansion of major and minor programs, better academic advising training and greater financial support for student clubs, conferences and research.
“I think one of the broader issues of classes being scheduled during community hour has to do with the limitations of classroom spaces,” Dean Lawrence Potter said. “According to the registrar we only have roughly 44 to 46 active classroom spaces.
“One thing that I can say in terms of looking to improve this is that we have now done multi-year scheduling, so the associate dean and the colleges are now responsible for scheduling courses a year in advance,” he said.
As for diversity in class options, Potter said that the University is paying more attention to hiring faculty that can teach such courses, and that this diversity is important in not only periods of time being studied but also in how scholars approach the materials.
Potter said the university is in the process of hiring several new faculty members, who will bring more diversity.
“As a result you will find more perspective represented in the curriculum,” Potter said.
Other issues raised included the high science lab fees, classroom sizes and conflicting class times, as well as the accreditation for programs such as computer science.
One of the topics of greater discussion was the request for more familiarity and better preparation to assist students in academic advising, with Potter classifying it as an area “we dramatically need to improve.”
While the College of Business has hired professional advisers to assist students to map out their academic schedule, the challenge for the College of Arts and Sciences lies in prioritizing either such services or bringing more faculty.
A solution would be to rethink faculty workload as it relates to advising.
Another complicated decision involves the demand for greater financial support for student clubs, conferences and research, which have to be balanced with scholarships in the distribution of the limited resources available.
As a tuition-driven institution, the University prioritizes and invests significantly on providing financial grants.
“It is not that we are not aware of the issue and do not want to support students, but it requires investment and it takes time to build these funds so that we could use the money,” said Sharla Geist, manager of the natural science division.
Before wrapping up the forum, the faculty addressed questions from the audience and from a board where students have written the topics they wanted discussed.
“Some of the answers we are talking about are going to happen after you leave,” said Keith Lord, professor of art and assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“But I love it that you’re talking about making this place better, and making this place better not just for your experience but for future students. You guys are becoming Leos for life, and I really respect that,’ he said.
Giovanna Z. Rinaldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.