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Students voicing opinions at forums this week

By Michael Gammo
On November 28, 2012

Dean of Students Michele Martinez is hosting open forums this week for all students who wish to voice opinions or make suggestions about how the student experience at UT could be improved.

Martinez said the goal of the sessions is to get the views of a diverse sample of UT students.

Martinez said she came up with the idea for having open forums after students raised objections earlier this semester to the proposed relocation of the Sexual Assault Education and Prevention office. This indicated the need for more dialogue between students and UT administrators, she said.

Forums have been occasionally held at UT in the past, but Martinez said they were mainly topic-specific.

“There are town hall meetings held in residence halls, but since more than 75 percent of the student population are commuters, those meetings do not get the full spectrum of UT student opinions,” she said.

Martinez said she plans to hold this type of forum every semester and hopes it will become a UT tradition.

One of the topics being discussed this week is the implementation of a one-stop shop for information on ways for students to get involved at UT.

The idea, proposed by Martinez and Virginia Speight, interim director of residence life, involves a kiosk or information station that could provide students with details about various internships, study abroad programs and student organizations. Martinez said she and Speight are looking for student input about how the information station should be designed and where it should be located.

Students at Monday’s forum discussed campus safety and improving communication on campus between students and administrators, as well as communication between student organizations and the student body.

“Communications on campus need to be improved, because as a commuter student the main way I hear about things on campus is through email or bulletin boards, but there should be a less cluttered way of seeing what’s going on at UT,” said Katrina Carr, a freshman majoring in sociology.

Students also put forth suggestions for improvement of residence life, freshman mentoring, student events and student services.

“I feel the university is starting to listen to students and care more about student ideas,” said Elliot Livensparger, a senior majoring in human resources and organizational leadership.

Martinez said she is optimistic about the future of the new venture and is committed to implementing as many of the student suggestions as possible.

“If I can address a concern directly, I will,” she said, “and if not, then I will take student suggestions and results of the discussions to the senior staff, provost and vice president to see if there is another way to implement improvements.”

The remaining student forums will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday and 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday in Student Union Room 3016. Refreshments will be provided.

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