5. Recommendation: Report to the Board of Trustees
by Alba Gjino, Student Representative
Honorable Members of the Board,
As the end of the fall semester approaches, there is much to be discussed as students still face the same problems in their academic life. Despite many achievements students remain concerned with the quality of their education and future performance of AUBG. Even though these issues have been brought up in the previous reports, I would like to stress one more time in academics, admission and residence life. In the meantime, student government and other clubs have resumed at full time with high spirit and noticeable creativity. Particularly, I would like to mention the new SG initiatives and its outcomes for the new academic year.
The course registration process for spring 2012 continues to be problematic for most AUBG students. During the first day the reg.aubg.bg website was having some problems and many students were not able to register until the last moment. This created panic and anxiety among graduating seniors that were registering for their last semester.
The lack of electives in the Business and Computer Science Department remains a persistent problem for most AUBG students. Many computer science students complain for the absence of classes up to date with the current technologies and lack of professors in the department. Further, many students will not be able to enroll in the classes they are interested due to the high demand and long waiting lists. For example during the end of the fall semester Discrete Structures and Web Design have another 19 people enrolled on the waiting list. The four sections of Principles of Macroeconomics have 35 students enrolled, which is a high number of students per class, and a total of 24 people on the waiting list. While, comparative politics has 11 people on the waiting list as well. Many students are getting frustrated and have to change their plans considering that all the courses mentioned above are required for completing their majors.
Following the matter, the business department was facing problems regarding the need for additional faculty; two Marketing and two Strategy courses were not staffed and the Strategy course was a critical issue for graduating seniors. The problem was that administration had delayed authorization and thus the positions were not allowed to be advertised in the market. Additionally, the Provost and Dean were informed of the issue and the fact that there are further problems with the length of time needed for acquiring work visas which means the faculty would have to be from EU countries. This posed a big challenge to the business department considering the lack of time and the fact that finding faculty that can teach both courses is very unlikely due to their differences. Since there was no time for advertisement the faculty had to contact and offers the position to Prof. Mailer who used to teach both subjects years ago. The chair of the department mentioned that Mailer left AUBG because he did not want to go through the regular procedure of evaluation and this was a cause of concern since the rules of the university state that every professor has to go through the evaluation process. Finally, Prof. Mailer agreed to teach both courses but such a last moment decisions will directly affect the students who are unfamiliar with his teaching style. Also, during the last business department meeting many professors expressed their concern regarding the hiring process of the new faculty. Professors mentioned that there is a problem with the current recruitment strategy and with the candidates receiving messages late. Additionally, the research committee has to do all work manually and specialized software is needed to filter the applications. Such problems should be treated in a timely and careful manner from the administration since it directly influences the quality of the new professors.
On the other hand, the JMC department has to deal with the lack of equipment necessary to develop the skills needed for the major. Currently, the Multimedia lab offers only five computers for a class of 30 students. Many students were complaining for the lack of recourses and thus had to delay working on their projects. Following the matter, I would kindly ask the administration to consider investing in new equipment because after all the JMC department is a constantly developing major. Also there is a growing concern among students regarding their independent study options. The independent study is needed to complete graduation and for this a faculty advisor is required. Currently, there are only four faculty members available and three new professors who cannot provide such tasks during their first semester. This has turn out to be problematic for graduating seniors who are left with no alternative as that of waiting till next semester when the courses are available.
Further, JMC and other majors are affected by the lack of an internship program structure. Even though JMC students are required to complete a full time internship in order to graduate, the university offers little or no support in this area. Thus, students have to rely on their own recourses or support of external organizations. Many students complain for the lack of a clear internship program and specialized counseling service. The current options provided by the career center, advising center and each department do not meet the real needs of the students in this area.
There is growing concern among students for the quality of their education and faculty motivation. Many students argue that some faculty members are not at the level required and that sadly they rely only on already available information such as textbook or power point presentations. Some of the professors are not motivated or interested in the subject and this is reflected in lack of class discussion or practical knowledge. Here again the problem might be linked with the fact that there are no available opportunities for professional development for the current faculty. A part of the problem could be that many professors are unfamiliar with the AUBG culture and thus should be properly trained or familiarized with the environment.
Also, many graduating seniors complain for the lack of recourses available to finish their senior thesis. According to them the library database does not provide sufficient academic journals or well-known. Often they have to rely on outside sources and thus fear for the quality of their work. Many students face the same problem with research papers or financial projects in high level classes.
As I have already mentioned in my previous report, student quality and English proficiency remains a dominant problem for the new generations. Professors are becoming more worried about the ability of students to speak proper English and commit in classes. According to them, class discussion or essays are poor and exam scores are much lower compared to the previous generations. Following the last Board Meeting this could be associated with the poor pool of applicants for this year. Thus, drastic measurements should be taken into recruiting the best student in the region. Taking into consideration that the academic year of 2012 will pose a challenge, due to higher SAT minimum score for tuition waivers, reduction in first-year aid award and substantial increase in students’ fees, admissions needs to take severe measures in recruiting a lot of qualified and enthusiastic students from all over the world. (1: Committee of the Whole report 2011, pg.7) Thus, vigilant attention should be paid to the recruitment strategy and identifying new markets. As part of the recruitment process more Alumni or current AUBG students should be involved to facilitate the process. On the other hand, this year many professors went to different countries as part of the recruitment campaign and as such I would like to congratulate their effort in the process.
The OCC has been successful in increasing the internet speed and quality for this year and that is something we have to congratulate them. On the other side, they fail to provide a simple Wi-Fi service in the Residence Halls and a variety of other devices. Sadly, I doubt there are any colleges in the US where students can not access the internet via their phones, tablets or e-readers. Yet, this is an issue OCC remains reluctant to offer. Another problem is the fact that many students cannot access some AUBG related websites outside of campus. This is a problem mainly for students conducting research during the break or managing their class registration. A new committee was created by the Provost in order to improve the OCC services and hopefully this new incentive will solve some of the problems mentioned. Even though residence lifeis at full capacity, students are concerned with the current conditions of Skaptopara 1. There is a significant difference with Skaptopara 2, rooms are very small or furniture is too old, and many students are unhappy considering that they are paying the same price. Moreover, some of them are even moving off campus due to inappropriate conditions and relatively high price in the market. More work should be done in restructuring, buying new furniture and providing a comfortable environment for both Skaptopara 1 and 2.
Despite all the problems, this year was very productive and a lot of new initiatives were undertaken particularly from the Student Government. First, the new Student Government introduced their new website which got 4,592 visits only during the first day. The most up to date research reports a total number of 41,458 visitors which is substantially higher than the previous website. During the beginning of the semester, the SG took the so called Write to Your Professor initiative which was later transformed into an online Student Evaluations of Teachings. This site intends to provide mid-semester evaluation for current professors and easy the registration process. The SG website explains further “This forum is built for the sake of providing a fast, efficient, and secure communicational medium to the students at AUBG.” Basically students can post comments about the professors with which they are taking a class and depending on their personal choice these comments can be anonymous (refer to Appendix I to view the cover page). The forum was created due to the high demand among students in accordance with the famous website in the US www.ratemyprofessors.com. According to the SG statistics, the faculty evaluations forum got more than 500 evaluations and was especially active during the pre-registration process.
In the meantime, they introduced a competition for designing a new logo for the Student Government and the winner would be awarded in monetary terms. After several applications and discussion among senators and administration the new logo for 2011 was chosen (refer to Appendix I to see the logo). This logo replaces the old SG logo and is used in all SG related activities.
Also, SG had a higher budget of almost 50% this year which is currently distributed among clubs or other student related events. Many clubs have already started having regular meetings, organizing activities or guest lectures. The Freak Economics club organizes educational lectures or invites professors to discuss the latest trends on a regular basis. While, other clubs such Better Community continue fund raising for orphan children and increase awareness of health issues such as AIDS in collaboration with the Blagoevgrad community. The Business Club organizes different guest lectures from successful people working in Bulgaria and facilitates the lectures offered by the Entrepreneurship class. A very fresh initiative was started by a group of sophomores this year that includes creating the first AUBG Academic Journal. The main purpose of this journal is to reward excellence and stimulate student research and writing. The papers will be reviewed by the Review Panel and the best ones will be published at the end of the academic year. The Academic Review offers the students of AUBG the opportunity of having their published work while still on an undergraduate level.
I am glad to announce that this year AUBG hosted its first short film festival on November 24-26 showing shots by established and aspiring filmmakers from more than 13 countries. Scott Hillier, cinematographer and director of photography of the Academy Award-winning short documentary Twin Towers, opened the three-day event with a lecture about the joys and frustrations of doing film. Such activities show the great interest of AUBG students in different fields and promote creativity.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I am open to any questions or feedback regarding the matters discussed above.
APPENDIX I :
The image below briefly shows how the Faculty Valuations forum looks like: