Syndicate, March 3, 2009
About 40 UNT students gathered in the Syndicate café and lounge March 3 to talk with President Gretchen M. Bataille during her first of two spring 2009 Really, let's talk sessions.
Military leave policy
One of the first questions posed came from a student in the Texas State Guard who asked whether the university's military leave policy could be changed. He said while most professors accommodate him if he is away for a week or two, if he is gone longer his only option is to withdraw from class.
UNT's military policy is in accordance with state law. Read the military policy.
President Bataille assured him that she would look into it. The university has a policy that allows faculty and staff to take military leave, she said, and has worked with the vice president for Finance and Administration, who is in the reserves, to accommodate his absences.
Another student asked when the environmental pledge the university made in signing the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment would be reflected in the curriculum. President Bataille said there are many of good things happening on the environmental front. She reminded students that UNT has one of the best environmental ethics and philosophy programs in the country and has embraced sustainable practices, including using biodegradable products and biodiesel. The university also recently won an award from the Clinton Global Initiative, she said.
Now that the university has appointed a new director for the Office of Sustainability to coordinate our environmental efforts, things will move along faster, she said.
"If we're not there yet, we're going to get there," she said.
Smoking on campus
In response to this concern, UNT Facilities will replace some of the exterior signs at the main entrance seating area. There are signs on each of the public entrances to the building stating that it is non-smoking facility and that smoking is not allowed within 25 feet of the entrance. These signs are still in good condition.
When the subject of smoking on campus came up, participants offered a variety of suggestions. One person asked whether the fading "No Smoking" signs at the EESAT building could be replaced while another suggested that UNT raise awareness to keep students from smoking.
President Bataille agreed, saying that perhaps the university's Student Health and Wellness Center and the Student Government Association could join forces to do more preventative education. Already, cigarettes are no longer sold at the University Union. But while she said she supports reducing smoking on campus, she didn't think it was realistic for UNT to become a smoke-free campus because of its size and relatively open access. It would be impossible to enforce, she said.
National research universities
President Bataille also addressed questions about UNT's ambitions to become a national research university and how athletics fits into that plan.
She explained that national research universities are top research institutions that draw more state and grant funding. UNT is an emerging research university and becoming a national research university would help us earn more recognition, funding and investments that would elevate all of our programs, she said.
As for our athletics programs, President Bataille said, "Great universities have great athletics. They have great facilities for their athletic teams."
In response to a later question about whether funding a new stadium was a good idea, she clarified that the student-approved fee will help fund the stadium, not tuition or state dollars. A modern stadium would enhance UNT in every way, raise our profile and encourage more people to support us, she said.
"We have to decide if we want to be a great university. A great university has to be great in every way," she said.
She said the stadium would be part of an entertainment complex that includes a hotel, convention center and a parking garage.
The subject of the city of Denton's decision to make Oak and Hickory one-way streets and to eliminate parking also came up during the session, spawning discussion about whether the university would add more parking. President Bataille joked that she always gets the "parking issue" question.
She told students that one good change would be the addition of bike lanes to the streets. She said the university does plan to add a parking garage where Kendall Hall was previously located when the new Business Leadership Building is constructed, but there are no other plans for new parking lots. She encouraged students to use alternative transportation more to get around campus rather than driving from one place to another.
The session ended with President Bataille assuring students that UNT has a strong and secure future and urging them to spread the word about the university.
"We're just going to keep getting better," she said.
Other suggestions raised at the Syndicate session:
- A student suggested that UNT post notifications of when and where doctoral defenses take place, an idea that President Bataille passed along to Michael Monticino, the interim dean of the Robert B. Toulouse School of Graduate Studies. The graduate school is considering posting notifications on its web site in the future.
- A student suggested that UNT provide more recycling bins, particularly near the Language, Art and Auditorium buildings, an idea that President Bataille shared with UNT Facilities. UNT has recycling bins of various sizes in every building on campus. As demand increases and requests are made, UNT Facilities adds bins, but there is limited staff to pick up recycling. UNT's Recycling Program employs five full-time staff and two student workers. The program is expected to grow and UNT Facilities has set a goal to have recycling containers and pick-up services in the majority of classrooms within the next two years.