University Union, One O’Clock Lounge, Nov. 5, 2009
President Gretchen M. Bataille hosted the second of two Really, let’s talk sessions for fall 2009 in the University Union’s One O’Clock Lounge.
Student Government Association President Dakota Carter introduced President Bataille, who then opened the floor to questions. During the hour-long session, Bataille responded to a number of issues raised, including parking, student military benefits, free speech and smoking on campus.
The availability of parking on campus was the first question of the session. The student said that she was concerned that the current number of student parking spaces is inadequate to meet student demand.
President Bataille acknowledged that parking is often frustrating on big campuses with large student populations and pointed out that parking has to pay for itself. More parking would mean students pay more money, she said.
She assured the student that Parking Services is trying to provide more garages and exterior lots around campus.
President Bataille also encouraged the audience to take advantage of the university’s bus system, which she said is more accommodating than those of other universities.
Another student asked if the university had plans to license its logo so that UNT merchandise would be easier to find.
President Bataille deferred to Rick Villarreal, UNT’s athletic director, who was in the audience. Villarreal said the university is currently licensing its logo. Total retail sales exceeded $3.3 million last year. Villarreal said the more that students, alumni, faculty and staff ask their local stores to carry UNT products, the greater the supply would be.
A UNT student who identified himself as a member of the Army National Guard asked President Bataille if the university had a policy to help students sent on short-term military deployments to avoid loss of course credits.
President Bataille said the university is committed to meeting the needs of its students in the armed forces.
The new Veterans Center in the Union gives student veterans access to resources and help she pointed out.
UNT's military policy is in accordance with state law. She suggested that any students with questions about university policies related to military service consult the Veterans Center.
President Bataille also was asked about the university’s revised free speech policy that was recently adopted. She explained that the policy basically affirms that students have the right of speech on campus. The policy clarified and better explained areas where free speech activities are allowed and how they should be conducted.
Another student noted that growth of the student population often correlates with decreased academic standards and asked what the university is doing to ensure high academic standards.
President Bataille said the university is trying to keep its growth to about 2 percent per year. But this year’s growth was about a 4 percent largely because more students are staying in school, probably because of the bad economy, she said.
She pointed out that UNT student’s SAT scores are above the national and state averages. The university also tries to ensure high academic standards in a variety of ways. For instance, the university is a transforming the learning experience through its Next Generation Course Redesign program, which is redesigning learning environments to increase learning outcomes for students, she said.
The university also is accredited by SACS, which means that staff must track learning outcomes in every department.
“We are trying to interest the best-quality students in the state,” she said.
Marketing of UNT
The university’s marketing efforts was also brought up. A student, who is from San Antonio, said she was excited to see a UNT billboard in her hometown after raising the issue of marketing in Central Texas at a past Really, let’s talk session. The student asked what other marketing outreach UNT planned to do in the area.
President Bataille said there are currently UNT billboards in Houston and San Antonio, and she has been meeting with alumni in those cities to learn more about ways to spread the word about the university.
Smoking on Campus
One of the last issues that President Bataille addressed was smoking on campus. A student asked what could be done to prevent people from smoking so close to buildings.
The president agreed that promoting a smoke-free campus was a challenge because not all students want to eliminate smoking and because UNT is not a closed campus. The university cannot prohibit smoking on city streets that run through campus, she said.
The university is continually addressing the issue, moving ashtrays away from doors to discourage smoking near buildings and reviewing the possibility of smoke-free zones.
“This is a tough situation. I’ve been speaking to other university campuses and getting mixed reviews,” she said. “I don’t want our police wasting resources to spend time monitoring this issue. We’re working on it.”
After a few final questions the session ended and Bataille thanked the crowd of more than 50 people for attending. She encouraged everyone to participate in upcoming sessions.