Administrative Structuring Feedback Poll Results

As part of the process of hiring a new Provost and a new Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment, the Administrative Structure Advisory Committee solicited input from a Student Advisory Committee to help identify key issues and potential incremental organizational changes. The members of the Student Advisory Committee were:

  • Daniel Acheampong (Student Union President)
  • Marla Merchut (Student Union Director of Academic Affairs)
  • Rebecca Bachman
  • Andy Hogan
  • Marc Eder
  • Jane Harries (Graduate Student Association President)
  • Joby DeCoster (Graduate Student Association Vice President)

To elicit graduate student opinion, the committee distributed an online poll, to which 164 graduate students responded (8% of eligible participants). Following is a summary of student opinion as expressed in this poll.

Size

  • Most grad students would like to see graduate programs in general and their programs in particular stay the same size or grow slightly. Yet they also express concern that the expansion and admission of less qualified students is hurting the quality of their programs.
    • “The admission of unqualified students (mostly, but not exclusively, foreign) and the subsequent reluctance to fail those that deserve it is weakening programs that are already on unsure footing. The focus seems to be on taking students' money, regardless of their qualifications, rather than on accepting students that are able, willing, and ready to learn.”
  • For the most part, grad students don’t feel impacted negatively or positively by the increase in the undergraduate body. However, there is some concern about the increase in size in graduate programs without a corresponding growth in infrastructure. They hope it will translate into more teaching opportunities, especially UPIs and other opportunities to teach their own classes.
    • “It's a net positive for the university, in that it helps address the structural deficits we've long been running, and presents new opportunities moving forward. But ultimately, the university will only be able to attract the undergraduate population it desires if it continues to use the revenues it provides to invest in the quality of education - and that means building on core strengths in graduate education and faculty.”
    • “I know that the Heller class size increased to nearly double the original size. Many of us came to a school expecting 80 students in the class.... but we had some 150 students -- and no place to sit in some classes! If you are expanding -- ensure the incoming students are aware of it, and ensure that you have the facilities to provide for the increase in students!!!”

SVP Services

  • Of the services under the SVP, the Hiatt Career Center and Transportation are the most important issues for grad students.
  • Yet most grad students don’t plan to rely on the Career Center to get a job.
    • Only 2% of respondents expected to use the Career Center more than their advisor/department/school to find a job.
  • Most grad students are uninterested in campus housing, but they need transportation improvements to facilitate their commuting.
    • 71% of respondents were not interested in housing.
    • “Many students have formed [transportation] committees and tried to have any change whatsoever, and have been left feeling that the administration just could not care less.”
  • Students want flexibility and responsiveness in their administrative services, rather than rigidity.
    • “I have had problems with student financial services. Student workers are not properly trained, and are not at all service oriented. Their structures tend to be rigid/inflexible, and the entire office seems to lack organization. Perhaps the office lacks sufficient personnel, but I have observed other academic institutions that do a much better job.”
  • Grad students are generally satisfied with the structure of LTS and the balance between its library and technology services, although they have noticed a decline in its physical state and level of service.
    • “The library has become increasingly a frustrating place to do serious research over the last few years. So many changes seem geared toward undergraduates' enjoyment of their college experience … Everyone wants the library to be a pleasant place, but not at the expense of research.”
  • Students have concerns about the quality of healthcare coverage.
    • “Health insurance is a major issue for full-time graduate students who are over 27 and therefore, too old to go on their parents' health insurance. The current student insurance is unacceptable. It does not adequately cover prescription drugs and many students, myself included, have had to purchase more expensive plans through Commonwealth Choice in order to get our needs met. I am in the process of gathering a group of students together to work on this issue.”

Provost

  • Grad students think the Provost should focus on improving the quality of academic departments and faculty, but not to the detriment of fiscal stability.
  • Graduate students feel moderately well-supported by Brandeis (not financially, of course), but generally feel connected to their school/department and disconnected from the university as a whole. Many students would prefer more collaboration across the schools.
    • “I often feel that the graduate programs are supporting the University (heller in particular) rather than the other way around. I don't feel that there is really any support for graduate students, or attention to the quality of their education from the larger university.”
    • “there just seems to be a big disconnect between the university and the graduate schools.”
    • “At least in IBS, it seems very autonomous from the rest of campus. There is a clear division between IBS and the undergraduates and other grad schools.”
  • Students are interested in research funds as much as stipend increases.
  • Grad students usually dislike sharing classes with undergraduates.

Personnel

  • Communication is a major issue. Students want open lines of communication between them and the administration. They want student, staff, and faculty involvement in university decisions.
    • “I have observed a great deal of tension between the faculty and the University administration.”
    • “[Administrators will need] Consensus building; management savvy; and most of all, a clear vision of what this university ought to be.”
    • “Openness to receiving student feedback and taking action accordingly, accessibility to students, open-door policy, commitment to social justice, leadership ability, commitment to following through on promises.”
    • “Communication is not always effective at Brandeis, as it trickles down from upper-level administrators through departmental administrators and eventually to the students. There needs to be more direct communication.”
    • “I can only speak for the MPP program within the Heller School, but so far I have not experienced any problems with administrative structures. I am very impressed by how well my program is run. Michael Doonan, Janet Bugslaw, and Norma DeMattos do an outstanding job listening to students, being responsive to feedback, and creating a supportive sense of community between students and faculty.”
  • Grad students would prefer that both positions be filled by academics, although they are open to non-profit or corporate experience, especially for the SVP. A minority of students favor internal candidates.
    • “[The new administrators should have] An understanding of the value of scholarship, rather than using a corporate business model for an educational institution.”

Challenges

  • Students are primarily concerned with finding jobs after graduation. They see the financial crisis as a threat to the quality of the school, which will threaten their employment prospects.
    • “The number 1 concern is lack of name recognition for the graduate programs, as Brandeis is not a target school for employers.”
    • “[Grad students’ major challenges are] Job search and recognition of the program by more outsiders.”
  • They want sufficient funding to graduate quickly without inordinate teaching responsibilities.
  • They recognize the fiscal pressures faced by the administrators.
    • “I imagine juggling the financial issues facing the university with the demands of creating high quality academic programs would be quite a challenge indeed.”
    • “[Administrators’ major challenges will be] Creating a sustainable financial system, that will allow Brandeis to continue to grow without tapping the endowment, increasing enrollments beyond capacity, etc.”