Chancellor Rogers answers to students at Nanook Night

Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Reporter
April 17, 2012

Brian Rogers humorously wears a fake mustache over his own during the Q &A With Chancellor Rogers on Tuesday April 10, 2012 at 7:30pm in the MBS Complex at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Michelle Strehl/Sun Star

Fifty students crowded into the Hess Rec Center to get answers directly from the UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, for Nanook Night on Tuesday, April 10.

Attendees asked questions ranging from Taco Bell’s operating hours to academic advising.

Students could either ask the chancellor directly or submit a written-in question that a resident assistant would read during the event.

Jennifer Kemper, a 20-year-old business administration student came to the event because she wanted to know what was happening on campus.

“He’s sort of the mover and shaker around campus,” Kemper said.

The night began with a question about the quality of UAF’s water. Chancellor Rogers explained that it would be very expensive to replace the campus water system and that the temperature of the water affects the taste.

“It’s running the campus in a warm utilidor and the water is warmer than most service you would have elsewhere,” Rogers said. “We’ve repeatedly tested to make sure that there’s no contamination, there is not. It is safe to drink but there are many of us, who have serious concerns about the taste.”

Students also asked questions about the availability of parking space.

Rogers said one of the options to fix this problem would be to build a parking garage for faculty and students. The parking garage would cost about $2,500 and $3,000 per space, per year. Due to the high costs, legislative funding or an increase in student fees would need to cover the costs.

Another less expensive option is service parking. However, the soil on the north side of campus has ice lenses below it. Ice lenses occur when moisture begins to accumulate inside of the soil or rock and eventually begins to separate it. If this space was cleared the ice lenses would cause subsidence, the process of  large amounts of water leaving the pores of certain types of rocks. These rocks help hold up the ground. Without the water, the rocks break apart and the ground caves in on itself.

Since both sides have negative side effects, UAF explores alternatives to parking to fix the transportation problems. The university has tried to minimize the cost of the city bus service, so students can use public transportation instead of their vehicles.

“Parking will continue to be a problem, I don’t see a ready solution that gets us there,” Rogers said.

Students were also concerned about the quality and availability of their academic advisors. A lot of academic advisors are also professors and have busy schedules, which makes setting up advising appointments difficult. One student suggested creating peer advisors to assist with the need for academic advisors. The student advisors would help with academic advising like resident assistants help resident directors. There are peer mentors in the residence halls who help students with homework and personal issues but none are there to specifically help with advising. Academic peer advisors would help students with advising, offsetting the cost and time needed by advisors who are also professors.

One student raised concerns about the limited availability of classes and the university’s plan for students to graduate in four years. The “Stay on Track” campaign began in October 2011 and is used all throughout the University of Alaska system. The campaign encourages students to take at least 30 credits a semester, choose a major, meet with their advisors, take summer courses and use DegreeWorks. DegreeWorks is a program that keeps a record of student course work to make sure they stay on track to graduate.

Rogers explained that there are three reasons why students do not graduate in four years: financial aid, the quality of academic advising and the availability of courses. The limited availability of courses is caused by two issues, he said. One is from the university’s need to offer classes more annually and the need to meet the minimum number of class sizes. Due to UAF’s limited number of faculty members, legislators would probably have to raise student fees to pay for a larger sized faculty. With more faculty members, there would more available classes for students to take each semester. Having the minimum number of students in a class would no longer be a problem because the faculty could teach more classes. Summer courses are another solution to help students graduate in four years, due to the limited number of available courses.

“We’ve really worked to try to improve what’s offered at summer sessions so people can pick us some courses,” Rogers said.

The chancellor also discussed potentially reducing the number of credits needed for core requirements.

“By next year, or probably late next year or the following year, we’re trying to bring down the number of credits required in the core. It’s currently 38 credits and we’re trying to get it down…to the 34, 35 range,” Rogers said. Rogers advocates that UAF return to a consolidate fee. With this type of fee, UAF students could take a certain number of credits and the amount of credits after that would be free. For example, if the fee required a student take a minimum of 15 credits, the student would not pay for the amount of credits they take beyond that amount.

The chancellor answered questions for two hours. Afterward, students voiced their opinions of the event.

ASUAF President Mari Freitag, who helped organize small Q&A’s with the chancellor before, said the event was amazing.

Riley Crew, an 18-year-old social work and psychology student, got a lot of information out of the event, she said. “We usually get funneled through a lot of people that don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Rogers said that the Q&A is beneficial for both him and the students. 

“I really got a sense tonight, for example, that a number of the questions were about advising and academics is really substantial,” Rogers said. “I really do learn from that as to what are some of the areas that we need to improve on.”

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