Yudof: Campus culture changing

Liz Kohman

Amanda Moeller started taking classes at the University in 1995. She has had to work through school to pay tuition and tries to balance work, classes and homework to get her degree. She expects to graduate in the fall of 2003 – seven and a half years after she began her career at the University.

Aaron Olson started attending classes at the University this fall. He wants to major in communications and said he thinks he can graduate from the University in four years.

Campus culture is changing according to a report presented to the Board of Regents on Friday by University President Mark Yudof. The report, “Momentum: Recent trends at the ‘U,'” detailed the University’s previous and present situations. Nearly all meaningful indicators of improvement are up, Yudof said.

University officials want cases like Moeller’s to be less common and expectations like Olson’s to be the norm.

The number of students on the Twin Cities campus graduating in four years has increased for the past decade, but was still less than 30 percent in 2000, according to the report. The five-year graduation rate has also increased over the past decade. It was 45 percent in 2000.

The increase in four and five-year graduation rates show the trend is moving in the right direction, Yudof said.

The quality of the student body and faculty as well as efficiency increases are all indicators the University is headed in the right direction, he said.

However, Yudof also said the University was not perfect.

“Certainly in faculty salary and graduation rates we’re not where we want to be,” Yudof said.

“For those whose impressions of the ‘U’ were shaped in the 1970s or 1980s, today we look very different and we operate very differently,” Yudof said.

Yudof said the University was more of an urban institution than a traditional university during the 1980s.

Efforts such as creating freshman seminars, increasing the capacity of on-campus housing and starting traditions such as convocation are meant to generate a greater sense of community on campus, Yudof said.

University officials said these efforts along with increased credit loads will help improve the undergraduate rate of graduation.

It is important to graduate in four years, Yudof said, because students who haven’t graduated in six years are less likely to graduate at all.

Moeller’s story is unusual because she still anticipates graduating after more than four years of studying at the University.

“Going to school full time was never an option for me,” Moeller said. “My parents weren’t going to pay for me to go to school.”

Yudof said support would still be available for students with unusual circumstances, but more students should be encouraged to graduate in four years.

“If you have a problem and need to work, we’ll help you,” he said.

Moeller said she could see the benefits of graduating in four years.

“A lot of my friends went to school for four years, and they had roommates and a lot of friends from college,” Moeller said. “It’s constantly different people that I see in my classes. There’s not the chance to network and meet people.”

Another indicator of the changing campus culture is where students are choosing to live.

The number of undergraduates living with parents and commuting to the University has decreased from 25.1 percent in 1991 to 14.1 percent in 2001, and the capacity of University and privately-owned housing around campus has increased during the past decade.

Marco Perzichilli, a freshman living in Pioneer Hall, said he was surprised by how at-home he feels at the University. He said living in the residence halls gives him a sense of community.

Although residential housing at the University has increased, there are still more students seeking housing than there are available rooms.

“Housing is definitely crowded,” said Kari Wold, a freshman living in Frontier Hall. “A lot of people don’t seem to like it.”

Yudof said though student life is improving as the University becomes more service-oriented, some students still feel frustrated with the institution.

“The fact it’s so big makes things difficult,” said Doug Snaza, a sophomore majoring in computer science and music. He said sometimes students get shuffled between different departments.

Yudof said an increased number of master’s degrees awarded, faculty-sponsored funding and gifts received were also indicative of the University’s current situation and position for improvement.

 

Liz Kohman covers the Board of Regents. She welcomes comments at [email protected]