By Lori Dresner, Managing Editor/News Editor
The graduate school at the University of Missouri–St. Louis hosted an open forum to hear graduate students’ concerns about issues on campus on March 10, in room 202 of the J.C. Penney Building.
Topics discussed at the forum included parking, the concerted effort to adopt a five-day schedule, and the possibility of course sharing across campuses.
Wesley Harris, interim provost for graduate studies and research and professor in the department of chemistry, moderated the forum.
Harris explained that the open forums began last fall as an outlet for graduate students to express concerns about issues on campus.
“I had gone into that [first] meeting sort of expecting some kind of student council kind of structure for grad students,” explained Harris. “And that meeting was pretty well represented. The consensus was that they didn’t really want to elect representatives or have councils; they just wanted to continue to have open meetings … so now every month, we designate a Friday and schedule a room, and the invitation goes out to all the graduate students, so whoever wants to come and talk can come.”
A few students showed up to the open forum on Friday to express concerns relative to their respective departments as well as general issues on campus. A graduate student in the biology department voiced a concern that his department is lacking a professor to teach an upper level statistics course, though it is a required course.
Harris said that the solution to lack of availability for certain courses could come down to course sharing across the four UM campuses if the courses needed are offered online. He noted that the first step, however, would be to try to find an instructor on campus who has the expertise to teach such a course.
“When students tried to take courses on another campus, historically there’s been administrative hurdles and roadblocks. But there’s much more of an atmosphere these days that we’ve got to get past all that. … There’s a growing recognition that we’ve just got to figure out how to do that. I think that they’re anticipating that there’s going to be a lot more of that [course sharing] going on as budgets on all the campuses are shrinking,” he explained.
Another graduate student brought up the issue of limited parking on campus. Harris said that the possibility of adopting a five-day campus has been one solution proposed to reduce those constraints.
“[A] solution is to try to spread the classes out so that not everyone is trying to be here at the same time to take courses,” said Harris. “The other perceived advantage of that is when you get into your upper division courses when there aren’t that many scheduling options … students can run into conflicts where they need two courses, but they’re being taught at the same time. Spreading them out over the day is thought to alleviate that kind of problem.”
Harris said that about 100 students showed up to the first meeting, though recent meetings have been more sparse.
According to the graduate school homepage, graduate students compose nearly 22 percent of UMSL’s student body and study in 30 master’s programs, 14 doctoral programs, and two education specialist programs, and work toward various graduate certificates.
The next open forum will be held on April 14 at 3 p.m. in J.C. Penney Room 202 and is open to all graduate students.