Rutgers President Outlines Campus Improvements in Response to Student Surveys

Rutgers President Outlines Campus Improvements in Response to Student Surveys

 

Rutgers President Richard McCormick briefed student leaders on a host of changes the university has instituted in response to a sweeping campuswide survey presented last fall, and continued feedback during a lively question-and-answer session.  

McCormick and senior administrators met with the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) at the Student Activity Center March 11 to report on his administration’s progress in addressing the concerns raised by students on the New Brunswick Campus, such as extended library hours, more convenient transportation, enhanced public safety, and better food.

To view the full report, “Response to Student Issues,” click here.

“You asked for libraries to stay open later on all campuses. We’ve done that,” McCormick said. “Kilmer and Douglass are now open until 2 a.m. Alexander Library is open to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and the entire building was opened 24 hours during exam period. The Library of Science and Medicine is now open to midnight on Friday and Saturday.”

The student concerns were gathered by RUSA through campuswide surveys and were voiced to McCormick at a face-to-face meeting in November.  The predominant issue was transportation, an area where McCormick said the university was constrained financially because costs have to be covered through student fees. For instance, he said, the addition of extra express buses connecting the Cook/Douglass Campus with the Livingston and Busch campuses each day would cost $250,000.

Senior David Sorkin expressed frustration with the university’s internet services, saying that his field of study is heavily research driven and that downloading a single article can take 10 minutes. He said fellow students have joked that they could drive to the university where a research article was published, pick it up, and drive back to Rutgers in less time than it takes to complete downloads.

Donald Smith, vice president for information technology, said the problem was identified a year ago and that the university increased bandwidth by 2.5 times. But usage has increased at the same pace, he said. In response, Rutgers could either slow down connections for all students, or suspend access for up to 700 students a day, Smith said. Suspending access was not viewed as an option, he said, therefore connections will remain slow while the university explores other options to improve service.

Redirecting Resources

McCormick said the university was able to accommodate a number of requests by redirecting resources. For example, the university was able to meet student requests for additional bus service during the December exam period and plans to do the same in May. The change was accomplished by cutting back service on the two reading days prior to exams, when demand is light, and adding the hours to exam days when the demand is heavier, said Jack Molenaar, the university’s transportation director.

 “In some cases, we were already in the process of fixing a problem you identified,” he said.  “In other cases, we found that the concern was based on misinformation, and we have sought to clarify the matter.” 

For instance, a frequent complaint is that buses wait too long at the Passion Puddle stop before resuming their routes. McCormick explained that the stops are intentional to enable buses to get back on schedule and ensure service along a route is evenly timed throughout the day.

There are some requests that can only be fulfilled through new revenues – and other instances where we had to say ‘no’ for a variety of reasons – among them logistics, finances, and priorities, the president added.  For example, he said it would not be feasible to enable students to use their meal swipe cards at New Brunswick restaurants, or to extend dining hall hours beyond the 17 hours a day they now operate.

Josh Slavin, a senior, asked McCormick if he felt RUSA’s use of the survey to present the university with a “deluge” of concerns was preferable to raising issues on an individual basis. “From our vantage point, this was a tremendously productive process,” McCormick said.

Additional improvements planned

Other areas where McCormick said students will see improvements include:

  • Public Safety All crosswalks will be repainted this year utilizing a new paint designed to glow and enhance visibility.  In addition, the University is working with Middlesex County to add more crosswalks on George Street near the River Dorms.
  • Dining Services A new dishwasher has been installed at Busch Dining Hall to improve cleanliness. Take-out menus are under review to add variety and new takeout hours have been instituted, including an extra two hours for Sunday takeout until 10 p.m.
  • Student Centers The hours of operation have been extended at the Livingston Student Center and recreation hours at the center now include Saturdays. More power outlets are being added to accommodate laptop computers. In addition, 45 new outlets have been added in lounges and lobby areas at the Livingston Student Center, and by the end of the summer additional outlets will be installed in other lounges and student centers.