President Michael F. Adams on student life
Q: In the broadest sense, how are today’s college students different from those of the 60s, 70s and even the 80s?
A: They’re very different. On the positive side, they are more focused academically and more goal-oriented. On the side of changes from their counterparts in the 60s and 70s, they are less socially active, more prone to overschedule themselves and, of course, more technologically savvy. On the not-so-positive side, they are a little more insulated from the affairs of the world than I would like and a little more concerned about professional goals and less about societal needs.
Q: How has that changed the way the administration does its job?
A: We keep our eyes and ears open a little more. We listen to the student leadership more. We don’t assume anything. And we provide more around-the-clock services. There are lots of lights on around here at 2 and 3 in the morning. I have seen as many as 300 students eating dinner at 2 a.m. in Snelling.
Q: What services are available to students to address these issues?
A: We have some dining halls, as I mentioned, open 24 hours a day. The Miller Learning Center is open virtually around the clock. We have research facilities that are open all the time. That means we need full police and security operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are expenses that come with that that we didn’t have 30 years ago.
Q: Are there measures in place to identify problem behaviors before they get out of hand?
Students gather on the steps of the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building before heading downtown for lunch. Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker
A: We have recently expanded the University Health Center, virtually doubling the space available to address student health needs, particularly the counseling function. We have more and more students, both in number and percentage, who show up here in need of social, psychological and behavioral counseling. This is the most heavily medicated generation in American history. After the Virginia Tech shootings, we created the Behavioral Assessment Response Council, which provides an avenue for faculty and staff to report students who might need help or could be a danger to themselves or others. Many of these young people come here with behavioral issues that, frankly, have never been addressed.
Q: How does the university handle alcohol violations? Are parents notified?
A: Parents are currently notified of violations of the university’s alcohol policy, but that process is under review. I don’t think we’ve made much progress, particularly with binge drinking, which remains far too prevalent to suit me. Nothing we have tried thus far has worked. I will receive a report soon from the Vice President for Student Affairs, who has been working with the Student Government Association, which wants to make changes to the policy. I don’t know if we will make changes, but I will listen to what they have to say.