“See tomorrow,” panel discusses “putting students first”

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A panel dedicated to addressing key issues related to the student population at UK lead a discussion Wednesday in the William T. Young Library Auditorium, titled “Putting Students First.”

This discussion is part of the “see tomorrow” Speaker Series, an ongoing effort by the University to engage with the campus community about the new Strategic Plan. The Speaker Series will address topics related to the process both leading up to and after President Eli Capilouto presents the Strategic Plan to the Board of Trustees in June. This plan details what the University values as an institution and how those values are paid for and put into action.

This talk, titled, “Putting Students First,” was related to issues that affect the student population at UK and the issues they face. Panel members included Robert Mock, vice president for Student Affairs; Jake Karnes, director, Disability Resource Center; Dr. Denise Simpson, director, office of Student Conduct and Community Concern; and Rhonda Henry, interim director, Violence Intervention and Prevention Center.

“We try to help educate here at the University, we try to support the educational mission, and so when you think about student affairs you think it’s a support organization that’s trying to help our institution move forward,” Mock said. “But what’s important is we realize the academic mission is number one here and so we try to do whatever we can in our division to create an environment outside of the classroom where students can be engaged appropriately because we realize an engaged student is a retained student and a successful student.”

Student Affairs is dedicated to providing ways to enhance the students experience here at UK. One of the ways Student Affairs enhances the student experience is through big events that they put on, events like UK fusion, the Student Center Spectacular, International Diversity festival, Homecoming, K-Week and Dance Blue. All of these are Student Affairs functions but mostly it is the goal of the division of Student Affairs to collaborate with academic partners throughout the institution and the community at large.

Another way the University puts students first is through the Disability Resource Center. Their department accommodates students with visual, hearing and mobility impairments, as well as those students with learning disabilities and mental problems like depression and anxiety for those who are eligible. Students who are impaired visually are given audio books and other learning aids. Deaf students are provided with sign language translators. There is work being done to campus and residence halls for students who have mobility impairments. 38 percent of students at the University suffer from ADHD, these students are accommodated with low distraction exam locations and extended exam time. 17 percent of students suffer from depression or anxiety and the DRC works with faculty so that these students can make up work they missed in class as a result of their depression/anxiety.

Karnes does a lot at the Disability Resource center but he said, “it is a struggle for UK to maintain the quality they’d like to offer because of lack of staff.”

UK ranks 13th in the nation for ratio of staff members to disabled students. For every 275 students there is one staff member who works with all of them. Purdue University ranks first, at one staff member for every 47 students.

Dr. Denise Simpson, Director Office of Student Conduct and Community concern discussed the disciplinary services UK provides. Their goal is to correct student behavior through sanctions which educate, and provide a process that helps students reflect on their development.

“Our goal is not to get students in trouble, but to help them make good decisions,” Simpson said.

Most of the students who violate school policy are presented with a warning. There are currently 118 students who are on probation by the school, meaning that they have already been presented with a warning and their behavior is being watched closely by the University. There are four students who have been suspended since this school year began, and these suspensions were the result of repeated violations and so far there have been no students dismissed from the University this year. Something Dr. Simpson refers to as a “success.” A high number of violations result from the abuse of alcohol. There are services provided by the Office of Student Conduct to help students who have problems with alcohol and substance abuse.

Interim Director Rhonda Henry discussed how they put students first at her department, the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center. Henry said their main goal is to prevent violence from ever happening. The VIP is a place where students can seek support who are victims, or friends of victims, of sexual assault, partner violence or stalking. The mission is to provide support for these students and individuals but they strive to eliminate this type of violence from ever starting.

“It was interesting to hear about the many ways the University is helping students,” Sadye Masuq, a UK student, said, “a lot of the things they are doing I had no idea they were doing.”

“I am surprised by what I’ve heard from the presenters today it sounds like we are doing a lot for our students here,” Michael Bird, a UK student, said, “but after everything I’ve heard, it sounds like we can be doing more.”

These organizations working alongside Student Affairs is one of the ways UK is “Putting Students First” by enhancing the student experience at the institution to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to be successful.

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