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Student Group Petitions Administration on Building Community

Frustrated by the lack of student community at TC? Tired of hearing about events after they have happened?

Perhaps you have seen the flyers, visited the petition Web site or even stopped by the Macy Computer Lab to join the other Teachers College students who have lent their support to a group of students committed to making changes at TC.

The petition reads, "We, the students of Teachers College, in efforts to foster much needed improvements in the areas of student engagement and membership, put forth the following petition. It is our hope that this petition will 1) give voice to the student body, 2) shape current and future school policy, 3) establish the fact that student silence does not equal student apathy, and 4) improve the overall Teachers College climate for all members of the community." The petition then outlines several problems that the students have encountered at Teachers College and offers some solutions as well.

After presenting the petition last month, representatives of the group have been meeting regularly with members of the senior staff. The goals, the administration feels, are laudable ones, though choices need to be made and priorities set about the most effective ways to make the suggested improvements.

"President Levine is going step by step through the petition, which I think is logical," said Connie Bond, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Human Development and Coordinator of Educational Policy at TC. "On the petition, we wanted to make sure that we were not just discussing the problems, we also wanted to have some sort of solution to the problems that are out there. They are not meant to be definitive, but just a means to start the discussion."

The Concerned Grad coalition was formed three years ago, said Bond, by several students united by concerns about their experiences at the College. "We decided to pull together a group of students interested in making Teachers College a better place for students," said Bond.

The original group, which numbered about 40 students, has changed over the years as members have graduated, but their concerns are the same. The petition gathered over 400 signatures during the spring semester before it was presented to the administration.

After meetings last month with Teachers College officials, it is hoped that a new e-mail ListServe-a service that allows users to send and receive e-mails with a list of subscribers-and more extensive use of the online calendar of events will help to increase information dissemination on campus. The online calendar of events on the Teachers College home page is a place for any department, office or group to post information about their events.

Ena Haines, Director of Information Technology, said that the ListServe could be available by the fall semester. "The student lists are there, the thing we have to do is finish the policy draft, get feedback from the groups and people that need to help us hammer it out, and then get it promulgated as official policy," said Haines. "What we have to define is what lists have what purposes, who can write to them, which lists are open, which are moderated and what kind of messages are appropriate for which lists."

Another idea is periodic e-mails to all students about upcoming events, academic deadlines and important dates. This information would be culled from the online calendar of events and then sent out in a formatted e-mail to all students participating in the service.

Other issues that the group hopes to address in the coming months are financial support, standard policies across departments, and interdepartmental and inter-school collaboration. But overall, said Bond, the biggest concern is that students do not feel a sense of community.

"Just about everyone you speak to will say that they are happy with their professor or their classes, but do not feel connected with the student body or with the school," said Bond.

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