Bruce Hall, March 3, 2009
At President Gretchen M. Bataille's second spring 2009 Really, let's talk session March 3 at Bruce Hall, the subject of transportation played a key role in discussions.
The session kicked off with a question about instituting a UNT safe ride program so students have a safe way of getting home when they've had too much to drink or are in an emergency situation. The university's Student Health and Wellness Center is helping to develop a student-run program.
"I think it's a great idea and it's clearly something we need to have available. As the campus grows and the community grows, problems grow. And we need to be responsive," President Bataille said.
The session soon gave way to a broader discussion about the gaps in transportation service, both on the UNT campus and between the university and city bus services.
One student pointed out that bus service stops at 5:30 p.m. on Fridays from Victory Hall near Mean Green Village, but e-ride, the university's on-demand, nighttime mini-bus service, doesn't start until 9 p.m. That makes it hard to get to the main campus, he said. Another student said the university's bus service and the city's bus service don't overlap very well.
UNT Shuttle service ends at approximately 5:30 p.m. on all routes on Fridays because of lack of demand, as there are not Friday night classes. E-ride is available as an after-hours on-demand service by calling (940)565-4838. E-ride serves the main campus, Eagle Point Campus and the Discovery Park campus from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. every night during the fall and spring semesters.
"So what I'm really hearing from a lot of you is that we've got some work to do here," President Bataille said.
She said UNT Transportation Services has been very responsive to making improvements and she would pass along the comments.
Another student thanked the president for putting in more bike racks. President Bataille said it was necessary because the university is trying to encourage more students to ride their bikes.
UNT System law school
President Bataille also was asked about plans for a UNT System law school. After being rejected in the past legislative session, she said the proposal is working its way again through the Texas Legislature this session and university officials are hoping it will pass this time. The plans are to renovate the former City Hall in downtown Dallas for the law school, which means Dallas could soon have its first public law school.
Students have played an active role in evaluating the process and giving feedback on UNT's current free speech policy.
Unlike other university policies in review, addressing the free speech policy is an educational process that allows the campus community to engage in dialogue about expressive activities, in the context of reasonable time, place and manner.
This month, UNT will finalize the measures specifically for the notion of sponsorship and appeal, while ensuring that it is clear that preference will always be given to scheduled academic or non-academic activities, with a balanced opportunity for free speech.
Free speech policy
Another student also brought up the university's free speech area and policy, which also had been raised in the first Really, let's talk session earlier that day. President Bataille said the university plans to expand the free speech area because limiting where people can speak freely may violate an individual's rights. The university also is reviewing its free speech policy, she said.
She said she understood the student's concerns about volatile speakers, but free speech is integral to America.
"What is offensive is to you is different from what is offensive to someone else. And that's really what free speech is all about," she said.
You can't restrict what people say, but you can restrict them from disrupting class or getting in the way of passers-by, she said.
A few students, who aren't originally from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, asked why the university hasn't taken its new billboards and marketing campaign beyond the region.
President Bataille said UNT must first increase awareness about our size and quality among people living in the Metroplex.
"If they don't think you're very big, they don't think you can accomplish much," she said.
But at the same time, the university is doing more to get our representatives involved in college fairs in other cities and states and advertising at the airport and in magazines, she said. Still, she agreed that more could be done to spread the word to a wider audience and welcomed student ideas.
The changes to dead week, which the Faculty Senate recently approved, also garnered attention at the session.
President Bataille clarified that the change means that dead week has been shortened to Friday through Sunday but not eliminated. This was a compromise to give faculty more time to finish coursework while ensuring that students still had time to prepare for finals.
Enrollment and housing
Another student asked what the university was doing to ensure that there was enough housing to meet the enrollment and population growths.
President Bataille said the university was trying to have controlled growth of about 2 percent a year. Last year, UNT opened two new residence halls and have plans for a new residence hall at Mean Green village.
"All I can tell you is we're tracking it, we're looking out, as enrollment goes up, to be sure we always have enough beds," she said.
The university also is asking for more money this legislative session to help with faculty-student ratios.
When the session ended, President Bataille thanked the students for coming out and sharing their concerns.
"I hope you always feel comfortable to send me an e-mail or talk to Jeff [Kline] through SGA and find out what's going on," she said.