Students and administrators at the College of Staten Island gathered today for an informal opportunity to discuss what was on their minds concerning the College, with a particular approach to making CSI a better institution.

CSI President Dr. Tomás Morales, who was joined by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. William Fritz, Vice President for Technology Systems Dr. Michael Kress, Vice President for Finance and Administration Milton Santiago, and Interim Vice President Robert Huber, fielded questions from students on a wide range of topics from parking issues to what CSI can do to promote world peace. The event was moderated by Acting Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Daniels.

Noor Daoud, a sophomore, mentioning his experience of being the only Muslim student among a group of approximately 100 Hillel members who recently rebuilt homes in New Orleans, suggested that the College could provide more opportunities for students from disparate backgrounds to get to know each other better, and, perhaps, do something good for the community, like the Hillel New Orleans effort. President Morales, agreeing that the suggestion was a good one, told the attendees that the College is a new member of the National Corporation for Community Service, which keeps tabs on student involvement in the community. The President commented that he would like to see the number of volunteer hours increase among the student body.

Junior Sharmila Mohammed added to Daoud’s comments by pointing to what she sees as a lack of participation among students on campus. “I love CSI,” she said, but students “don’t want to find out what’s going on on campus and it’s a pity.” The President asked her how she thinks that students can be drawn further into campus life and she suggested expanding CLUE credit offerings, where students receive credit for attending events. Daoud also suggested that videos highlighting CLUE opportunities could run on the CSI/Staten Island Ferry Shuttlebus to entice students to attend events.

A number of what students perceived as shortcomings were also addressed, such as the problems that disabled students face in the timely acquisition of textbooks at the beginning of the semester. Mary Beth Melendez, a sophomore, said that disabled students had no choice but to visit the bookstore at the same time as other students, often presenting physical challenges because of the deluge of students. The alternative, she added, is to wait until the rush of students ends, only to receive textbooks weeks into the semester. In response, President Morales suggested a dialogue between affected students, the Office of Disability Services, and the College Auxiliary Services Corporation, which is charged with ordering textbooks, to alleviate the problem, and perhaps find a more convenient and timely method to make textbooks available to disabled students.

The perennial issue of parking came up during the conversation, as CSI senior Tatiana Baret asked about the status of the residence halls on campus, saying that they would be more convenient for students who have to travel to campus and ease some of the parking woes that the College community have to face. President Morales said that the ground breaking for the new residence halls is scheduled for October, but that, due to the current economic recession, issues with a necessary line of credit to move the project forward were moving slower than expected. He added, though, that the first phase of construction will be 600 beds, reminding those assembled that the current enrollment is about 13,000. As a result, the President said that increasing public transportation to the campus and finding environmentally friendly parking solutions will remain chief priorities of his administration.

Finally, students expressed a need for better advisement and more course sections to ensure that students enroll in the courses they need to complete their degrees, and have enough opportunity to take those courses in a timely manner. Mentioning that the number of course sections has increased by 100 over the past year, but that more sections need to be added, he and Provost Fritz said that other measures are being taken to hire new faculty and ensure that students do not get closed out of courses.

At the end of the conversation, President Morales asked, “Should we do this again?” To which the participants responded with a resounding “Yes!”

Noor Daoud was one of the students who engaged President Morales and CSI administrators this week.