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Student-Faculty Relations Are Key for Prenner, Tsao

By Brian Rosenberg
Editor in Chief

Communication is the key to creating a more effective Under-graduate Association, say Emily R. Prenner '93 and Anne S. Tsao '94, candidates for UA president and vice president.

"Every point in our platform falls under [the heading of] communication in one way or another -- student-student, faculty-student, administration-student communication," Prenner said.

Prenner and Tsao have several ideas to increase these forms of communication. In response to the recent merger of the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs and the Office for Undergraduate Education, the two propose to create a UA committee that would serve as a direct link between students and Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs.

"The UA secretary-general would chair the committee, which could meet with Smith monthly," Tsao said. "The secretary-general should be a communication link between the UA and the outside."

Prenner believes some communication channels exist between Smith and students, such as the Committee on Institute Life, but that they "often have very focused issues to address" and are not available for general discussion.

Greater communication is also needed on the issue of academic honesty, Prenner and Tsao said. Both candidates said they are currently organizing a colloquium on academic honesty, which will take place in the fall.

"The administration and faculty are moving toward an ethical discussion [in the colloquium]. We are concerned mostly with providing feedback to faculty from students, a constant reevaluation of each course," Tsao said. The candidates envision Institute-wide application of a system now used in Principles of Chemical Science (5.11), in which every recitation section sends a representative to a course forum. The professor and teaching assistants also attend forum meetings.

Prenner and Tsao emphasized the need for a definition of academic honesty and said any decision on an honor code should wait until after the colloquium. They also said any honor code should be a "two-way street" with standards set for both faculty and students.

Team supports current R/O

The two believe that Residence/Orientation Week should remain in its current position in the calendar. "Universally, students like the current rush system, so that's the way it should be," Tsao said.

Prenner said an examination of freshman academic orientation is necessary, however. "We need to install new programs ... to keep freshman academics in line," she said. "It's not necessarily something where the UA should say, `It must be this way.' We need to look at what is going on now and what needs to be fixed."

The UA should serve a similar purpose in relation to the Institute's calendar committee, Prenner said. Though students are represented on the committee, she feels they do not offer the committee enough student input. This is particularly true, she said, now that the Institute is in the final year of a temporary calendar and will likely present a proposal for a new permanent calendar at the end of this term.

"The UA should serve in an advisory role to the calendar committee, and not take an active role until the report comes out," Prenner said.

Prenner and Tsao said they could not give specific intentions on the alcohol policy until the Dormitory Council releases its version of the policy. They remarked that the policy-making process should include "as much student involvement as possible."

The team also opposes an increase in tuition or the self-help level, though they acknowledged that it was too late to do anything about it this year. "We can plan ways to ease the burden on students, such as more publicity for scholarships and employment services," Tsao said.

Prenner and Tsao advocate a larger activities fee, completely controlled and administered by students. They propose increasing the fee to about $35. "We expect to have money left over after allocating to activities," Prenner said. This extra money would be put in a fund to help finance events with insufficient support. The two also support a waiver for students who object to certain activities for "religious, ethical, or moral reasons," Prenner said. "It would be hard to get a waiver," she added.

Student services

Both candidates stressed their experience with student services, including the "A Safe Ride" shuttle, food service, and Project Awareness.

Prenner said she is currently on an Institute committee examining dormitory cafeterias. "We're trying to tailor each cafeteria to the needs of that dorm," she said. She said the UA Food Service Committee needs to do more thanit has in the past. The committee should "serve as a check on ARA when it comes out with a new service -- there should be direct communication between students and ARA," she said. The committee's role should address students' concerns and ideas for solutions to ARA, Prenner added.

Tsao said Project Awareness should become the means to coordinate and unify the safety efforts of different groups on campus, such as the Campus Police and Medical Center. Tsao also said she hopes the fledgling group will become a source of information for students and faculty as well.

Prenner and Tsao said their experience with the UA is an asset, especially in light of the UA's recent adoption of a new constitution. "We have a working knowledge of the constitution, but we haven't ever worked under it, so it is a time for new ideas and trying new things," Prenner said.