Business Leadership Building, October 25, 2011
During the hour-long session, Rawlins chatted with students about football and his life experiences as a professor and economist while answering questions from students on issues that impact them.
In opening his discussion with students, Rawlins asked students to share what they liked best about UNT's new Business Leadership Building.
Students responded that they were pleased with the building's open design that includes gathering spots and lounge space so students can study and congregate in a central location.
"I'm very proud of what's going on at the University of North Texas," Rawlins told about 30 students attending the session. "This new building is a tremendous asset."
Becoming a smoke-free campus was the first topic of discussion.
Rawlins said he supported the idea of a smoke-free campus. Others agreed, but at least one student spoke out against the idea because he didn't feel that smoking harmed anyone but himself.
"That's true maybe," Rawlins said. "But you are harming yourself and I want you to know that you are one of my students and I really love my students. I wish you would quit smoking, but whether you do or not is your choice."
Before the end of the academic year, UNT's administration plans to address the issue of smoking on campus, Rawlins told students.
"I think we need to make smoking an open dialogue on our campus," he said. "I want to make sure that smokers have rights but it's also very difficult to make smoking a private matter because it smells so bad and it does do harm."
Parking and permits
Parking on campus also was discussed. A commuter student suggested that rather than offer a general commuter permit -- which allows parking in spaces marked "G" on campus unless otherwise posted -- the university should create a cheaper, hourly parking permit for students who live off campus, but want to use the Pohl Recreation Center and other campus facilities after most of the campus is closed.
In response to the student's suggestion, Rawlins said that university officials could look into offering cheaper parking during non-peak hours to students and off-campus groups, he said.
Another student with a premium commuter permit -- which allow parking in spaces marked "P," "G," and "AC" unless otherwise noted -- asked whether the university could provide a cheaper garage parking pass for the new Highland Street Garage, which opened in fall 2011, to help ease parking costs. The student explained that even with a premium commuter permit, she has a hard time finding a parking space on campus.
Rawlins said the student's suggestion would not be fair because it would require asking some students to subsidize the parking costs of other students.
During the session, students also recommended moving to a universal parking rate for all campus users and prohibiting freshmen from having cars on campus to improve campus parking.
Rawlins said the discussion illustrates the importance of UNT's new strategic plan, which emphasizes UNT's efforts to refocus on providing students the best educational in Texas and offering better and more efficient services.
"We're just about ready to come out with a new strategic plan and it says were going to do great things," he said. "We have a council of leaders on campus who can take ideas like these and see if they're feasible. In fact, they're exploring how do we provide optimal transportation opportunities for our students, considering cost and sustainability issues."
Rawlins added that students' parking concerns would be shared with UNT transportation officials.
"Parking is a huge issue and we will continue to look for the very best solutions that we can," Rawlins said.
The parking conversation segued into UNT's environmental commitments after a student pointed out that parking also is about sustainability.
Rawlins agreed, saying that UNT's green colors have come to mean a lot of things.
"We are a leader in trying to work on research and sustainability and to show it in our practices," Rawlins said. "We have hundreds, maybe thousands, of students who have chosen UNT precisely because of those values. So this is something we care about as well."
Student services, technology
A student also suggested that UNT put more smart boards around campus, including in UNT Libraries. A smart board is currently located in Sycamore Hall. The touch screen projector allows students to work together and interact on class assignments, but it isn't always available, the student said.
Rawlins agreed that there could be more uses for smart boards in UNT's buildings. He said the administration would look into adding more around campus.
The student also asked whether UNT could keep campus libraries open 24/7. Rawlins said university officials would look into the student's request, but pointed out that library hours usually are set for when the libraries are actually used.
"It's been a long time since I was a student but I haven't forgotten what it's like trying to use facilities for an exam or something and learning that a particular facility wasn't available to me because I was there at the wrong hour," Rawlins said.
He pointed out that during finals, for example, UNT Libraries extend their hours for students.
In ending the session, Rawlins told students they were lucky to be part of UNT at this moment because faculty and staff are focusing more on students to provide them with a high-quality education.
"There really is a passion and devotion to students," Rawlins said of faculty, staff and the administration.