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February 2, 1995

Senate group surveys freshman students

Cockroaches in dorms, limited food choices in cafeterias, and a shortage of student parking were among the complaints that emerged from an informal survey of Freshman Studies students by a University Senate group.

At the request of the Senate's student affairs committee, Freshman Studies instructors discussed campus life issues with their students during the 1993-94 academic year. Instructors sent the committee summaries of the issues and concerns that came up in those discussions.

"While these summaries do not provide a rigorous measure of student attitudes, they nevertheless revealed a number of issues that seemed worthy of consideration," committee chairperson Jonathan Schooler said.

Among the issues were: Housing — "Many students complained about the cleanliness of the dorms and particularly the bathrooms over the weekends," Schooler said. "Cockroaches in the dormitories were also frequently mentioned. Other housing concerns included the lack of water pressure in the showers, the common absence of soap and paper towels in the bathrooms, the need for more laundry facilities, including change machines, in the dorms, the condition of the Towers elevators, and the need to enforce quiet hours." Food — "Surprisingly," Schooler said, "many students were pleased with the food" at Pitt dorms. But some students said there should be more variety, especially more healthy and vegetarian offerings, he said. Other concerns included the requirement that all on-campus students participate in the meal plan, students' inability to carry over food credits from one week to the next, and the desire to expand the "choice dollars" plan to other merchants.

Social activities — "Many students were satisfied with the social offerings. However, some expressed concern that there were not enough alternatives to what appears to be the common activity of drinking," Schooler said. Because the Senate has a separate athletics committee, the student affairs committee did not look into opinions of campus athletics facilities, Schooler said. At last month's Faculty Assembly meeting, several Assembly members said the Pittsburgh campus lacks sufficient playing fields and other athletics facilities (no outdoor tennis courts, for example).

Other concerns raised by students included difficulty in registering for courses, the need for a walking security patrol, and the unavailability of student parking, Schooler reported.

Schooler said his committee discussed the student concerns during meetings with Housing director Robert Hopkins, Food Services director Betsy Sallade-Farina, and Associate Vice Chancellor of Business John DeVitto. Schooler called the meetings "most productive." "It became clear that many student concerns occurred because students were not availing themselves of available services," Schooler said — for example, reporting cockroach sightings to the Housing office.

To improve communication, he said, a new topic was added to Freshman Studies classes this term, in which representatives of Housing and Food Services visit each class and tell students about services available to them, ask students what problems they have, and let the students know how they can get help when they have concerns.

— Bruce Steele

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