Syndicate, October 9, 2012
During his second Really, let's talk session of the fall 2012 semester, President V. Lane Rawlins talked to a group of about 30 students in the Syndicate in the University Union about the university's capital projects, clean energy and transportation.
Before taking student questions, Rawlins said he was pleased with the record size of UNT's fall 2012 freshman class, adding that the university also saw higher enrollment among African American and Hispanic students.
"I am always delighted walking across this campus. You feel like a citizen of the world when you walk across the University of North Texas," Rawlins said.
UNT's master plan for campus building projects was the first topic of discussion when a student suggested that the UNT Coliseum be renovated because commencement, sporting and other events are held there. The Coliseum, also known as the Super Pit, is home to the Mean Green men's and women's basketball teams.
Rawlins agreed the Coliseum needs sprucing up.
"The Coliseum is one of our most heavily used facilities," he said. "It's an incredible facility."
UNT's athletics program recently received more than $3 million in gifts, part of which will be used to enhance the university's basketball facilities. Rawlins said that lighting and entrance restorations were planned, as well as safety improvements.
Students should voice their suggestions and concerns about facilities to the President's Capital Projects Council, Rawlins said, adding that in the near future the university is looking to create two new facilities, a new College of Visual Arts and Design building and a new student union building.
The union project, which is a student-approved and student-funded project, is awaiting final approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board after the board rejected the initial building proposal in October.
This discussion moved to sustainability efforts on campus after several students from the student organization, Denton OFF Fossil Fuel, asked if UNT plans to commit to not using fossil fuels by 2015. One student said that achieving such a goal would only cost $9 per student per year.
With, the vice president for student affairs, said that students already pay an environmental service fee of $5 per semester and that students are welcome to offer suggestions for its use. The fee has been used for projects and activities such as energy and water conservation, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable campus dining and student projects, she said.
UNT is nationally recognized for its green efforts, Rawlins added.
"We've made progress with our Sustainability Council on finding ways to conserve energy," he said. "We've reduced our carbon footprint enormously in the past three years."
Free speech on campus was the topic of an animated discussion between the students and administrators, regarding who has rights to distribute information and products on campus.
A male student asked why organizations such as Mary Kay, which only targets women, are allowed to sell products on campus and questioned how it benefits the school. He pointed out that his organization has difficulty getting approval to set up a vendor table.
With, the vice president for student affairs, said that companies can rent a space on campus or be sponsored by a student organization.
The university wants to meet the needs of everyone, Rawlins said.
"We don't police things. This is an open campus. People are allowed to speak freely and to participate on campus," he said. "We allow people to engage."
The discussion continued as a student from the fossil fuel group countered that allowing products to be sold on campus is a different issue than allowing free speech on campus. She argued the university treats student organizations and groups differently, depending on what they are promoting. She argued that right-to-life groups have more access to demonstrate on campus than her group does.
Rawlins responded that his job is to create an environment that is conducive to education.
"The whole point of talking about it is to be open," he said. "And the notion that you think that right to life people have more access to communication than you have is wrong. You've been able to make your point in every forum that we have."
UNT's policy on free speech and public assembly generally allows for "expressive activity" that includes such activities as speeches, assembly, marches, rallies, picketing and distribution of literature during university business hours. Read the full policy, which includes details on who can engage in expressive activity and what limitations may apply.
Campus transportation was the last topic of discussion. With addressed an exchange student's question about why there aren't buses that travel outside of Denton for students who do not live close to campus. The university also needs more buses that run on campus in the evenings and at night so students won't be late for class, the student said.
With said Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) buses do travel beyond Denton and students can eventually get onto university-operated buses once DCTA buses cross routes in Denton.
"We're not heavily funded and we try to make the most of what we have," With told students.
In closing the session, Rawlins thanked the students for coming.
"I appreciate you being here," he said.