Idea Box Submissions

Topic: Student Parking

Idea: I have been noticing quite frequently that faculty and staff have been parking in the student parking lots.  I understand that there is no sign that says "Student Parking Only", but it is very irritating when I'm walking across campus to get back to my car in the pouring rain and I see one of my professors just jump into their car that is parked right across from where they teach.  If I can't park in their lot that says "Faculty and Staff Parking Only", what makes it okay that they can take one of our parking spots?  On days that I can't find a spot and I see many other students struggling to get to class on time and there are open spaces in the Faculty parking lots, it drives me insane!!

Response: We are working on a plan to further designate parking on campus.  This plan would restrict parking in the manner you suggest.  In other words, there would be restricted parking for students only.  We would hope to implement this new parking system beginning with the fall semester in 2012.

Update: New parking procedures have been implemented beginning in the Fall 2012 semester. Please visit the Parking Procedures website for more information.

Topic: online and/or night courses

Idea: As a person who works full time, I strongly believe more night courses or more online courses should be available to students. (either one or the other - I'm sympathetic to the difficulty of expanding both.)  According to what I've heard on campus, the college administration is averse to offering more online courses because they feel RIC would become a sort-of "University of Phoenix". If this really is the attitude of the administration, they may (and most likely WILL) find RIC left in the dust as higher education of the future moves towards digital learning.

Response: Your submission to the Idea Box was forwarded to me, and I really need to respond.  Thank you for your question.  It is totally untrue that RIC's administration is averse to online courses!  On the contrary, my office [Academic Affairs] has invested heavily in online learning since I started three years ago.  I sponsored three (now coming up on five) summer workshops for faculty to learn how to teach online; I pressed for the establishment of a Committee on Online Learning, which was formed this past spring; and I established a position in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning for a person to help faculty in the methods of teaching online.  I also made sure we developed a naming system for courses that are partially or fully online, and you can now search for courses by mode of delivery in the Class Search function in RIConnect.  As a result of all of this effort, RIC has 31 online courses this summer (starting from zero two years ago), and another 38 scheduled so far this fall.

However, we have much more work to do.  The college has not yet developed a whole program that is online, and that is something I hope to accomplish in one of the schools this year.

I do agree that quality has to be the first consideration, because the benefits of online learning, such as convenience, mean nothing if the learning experience is not good.  However, the college's progress has been made with quality in mind, and the Committee on Online Learning is dealing with that very question -- what policies or procedures we need to have to ensure quality.

You also asked about evening classes.  Our busiest class time is actually in the evening, but one thing we are going to do is identify those programs that can be taken entirely in the evening.  Most of our graduate programs can be done that way, but the undergraduate programs have not yet developed along those lines.

I hope this puts to rest the notion that RIC is averse to online learning.  My argument has always been that it's essential.  Society is moving increasingly online, and our students need to know how to communicate, learn, work, and be professionals and citizens in the online world.  To ignore that part of their education would be a travesty.

Topic: Energy/Cost Savings

Idea: Locate or install an "off" switch for the lights in Alger Hall.  The lights in the hallways are on all day, every day, and no one knows how to turn them off.  Lots of extra energy and bulb replacement costs.

Response: We are pleased to report that we have completed our review of the hallway lighting issue in Alger and implemented a solution.  The hallway lights are now automatically controlled through our computerized building management system.  When the system turns the lights off at night, a low-level of lighting will remain on for security purposes.  Building occupants are still required to turn off the lights in the classroom and office areas. The development and implementation of this solution was done primarily with in-house facilities and operations staff .

Topic: Access to Technology

Idea: At least one Mac in each lab should have standard Mac software so people who use Macs can go to the lab and view their documents and power point presentation. The standard software that is missing is called "iwork" which is the basic word processing program.   Without this software students can not view their documents or power points or convert their power point presentations to PC versions that are already available on the lab macs to look for font and other structural problems. The lab gives the illusion that it has Macs that function but in reality they  don't function as Macs.  It is unreasonable that the lab Macs have been filled up with the software  "iplay" which is for playing games and gutted of the software that is for student work.  I have gone to the lab with a powerpoint that needed to be viewed and had to drive 45 minutes home to check it because this standard Mac software is not available in the lab. Although PC software is available for purchase to use on student's Macs, without enough money for additional memory a student cannot do this on campus.  Also, any student with a disability will have Mac memory already allocated to additional software and will be unable to install this PC software. It is unreasonable to ask the student to have this PC software installed on their Mac when there are Macs available on campus that could take care of this conversion problem. Unfortunately, the Macs on campus can not function as Macs without this basic software. This is not a matter of cost for the college; the older Mac software is available through Mac sites online for free.

Response: After speaking with the director of User Support Services (USS), she indicated that USS will put one copy of iWork in each walk-in lab and at the Help Center in Gaige so students can view and translate iWork files.  This should be done by the end of the month. The director also indicated that this will be the latest version of iWork (iWork 09) which is available from Apple, so students will need to be sure to save in iWork 08 format if they have the 08 version on their home Mac.

Topic: Spring Break

Idea: I was wondering why does RIC and other state colleges have different weeks for Spring Break. In my situation, I'm a full time student and I work full-time. I do not have a lot of time to spend with family. My sisters go to URI, giving us different spring breaks and taking away the opporunity to spend quality family time. Why can't they be the same week?

Response: Thank you for your question.  Nationally, the “spring break season” for colleges and universities generally occurs at different weeks during the month of March.  Much of this is determined by the academic calendar of the respective institutions, i.e., when classes begin, when classes end, the length of the semester, etc.  Rhode Island College has 14 weeks of classes.  Our spring break comes after the conclusion of the seventh week, with seven instructional weeks to follow the break.  At URI, there are 13 weeks of classes.  Their spring break comes after the conclusion of the eighth week, with five instructional weeks to follow the break.

From a web site that tracks such data (Outside Linkhttp://studenttravel.about.com/od/springbrea1/f/when_spring_bre.htm), here is the approximate breakdown on the number of students on spring break during each of the weeks of the "spring break season":

  • March 1-5, 2010 -- 230,738
  • March 8-12, 2010 -- 1,771,159
  • March 15-19, 2010 -- 2,176,460
  • March 22-26, 2010 -- 637,745
  • March 29-April 2, 2010 -- 516,588

As you can see, RIC is in step with the majority of the colleges and universities nationwide.

Topic: Parking

Idea: Where the new lot is should have been a parking garage. This way you can charge a fee each semester and have additional revenue coming in for years to come.

Response: Thank you for your idea to establish a parking garage. 

In response to student complaints about parking at the beginning of the Fall 2009 semester, the RIC administration identified the quickest and most inexpensive way to add parking spaces.  As a result of our responsiveness, there were 22 additional spaces before Thanksgiving and 48 more additional spaces when school resumed in January.

A parking garage would have not only cost more money, but it would have also taken much more time.  The following steps would be necessary to construct a parking garage: 

(1) Estimate the cost of a parking garage.  This is usually about 10x the cost per space as a ground level parking space. 
(2) Obtain board approval to charge students a fee to park to secure funding for the parking garage.
(3) Issue an RFP for design of the related site and infrastructure development including drainage.
(4) Approve designs, secure permits, and issue an RFP for the construction of the parking garage.
(5) Construct the parking garage.

Topic: Parking for Faculty and Staff

Idea: It would be a better place to work if there were parking spaces for Faculty and Staff.  The security team should be issuing tickets to offenders in Lots D & E and the 4 spaces outside the Art Center.  Parking for Faculty and Staff is a struggle everyday.  I've yet to see any yellow tickets issued on car windshields.  Students are parking in spaces meant for faculty and staff.  The students are seen driving around looking for (our) spaces, get out of their car and walk to class, or even seen sleeping in cars to secure a space all day.  I'm talking about parking before the 2:30pm allowed time. They're not there for a performance at Roberts Hall, in my opinion.  The 2 week grace period is over.  There are always lots of parking spaces for students to park in Lot A.   Seems like a lack of respect for faculty and staff.  Just voicing my opinion and I speak for others who are equally frustrated at the situation.

Response: To ease student parking, we expanded parking lot B in the fall and created parking lot Y over intercession. According to recent student complaints, that is not enough.

Although we cannot be sure that all unregistered vehicles belong to students, the Administration is aware of the tight parking situation on campus. We ask guests to park in lot A and sometimes, they chose to park in lots D & E instead.  I know with certainty that this is frequently the case because I watch as people come from and go to events in Roberts Hall from my office window.  Yes, unmarked vehicles could be students, but they also could be HBS parents, applicants, alumni, and others who participate in events on campus.  This is our dilemma with enforcement.  An option commonly used on other campuses would be to require all vehicles to register, a function for which we do not currently have staff.  While the Budget Review Committee (BRC) dismissed the option to establish a Parking auxiliary and charge to register vehicles on campus, that option has resurfaced with budget cuts.  The idea is that proceeds would fund the creation and maintenance of parking related initiatives.

In addition to the BRC option, we are looking at more ways to add safe parking to campus for the future. As you probably know, this year RIC is undergoing a master planning project to determine and prioritize campus needs. Along with traffic circulation, parking needs will be a part of those discussions.

Topic: Driving Directions

Idea: Make driving directions on our website more accessible to customers.

Response: Your suggestion is a good one. We will take a look at our website and see where it makes sense to add more links to the driving directions. These areas will  include those that have a  target audience geared toward prospective students, parents, and visitors. We are constantly striving to make our website more “customer-friendly” and always welcome feedback about ways to make it better.

Topic: Parking

Idea: More parking - it's so hard to find a spot

Response: The Administration is aware of the tight parking situation on campus. We expanded parking lot B in the fall and created parking lot Y over intercession. We are looking at more ways to add safe parking to campus for the future. As you probably know, this year RIC is undergoing a master planning project to determine and prioritize campus needs. Along with traffic circulation, parking needs will be a part of those discussions.

Topic: Yoga

Idea: Hello, I was dismayed this semester to see that there was no yoga class offered at the rec center.  During my stressful fall semester, that class was something I looked forward to every week.  Mental health on college campuses is a serious issue and little things like a weekly yoga class can be something that will keep a student sane!

Response: Every semester yoga is included as part of the recreation center programming.  The instructor from the fall semester was scheduled to conduct a program during the spring semester but unfortunately contacted rec center staff a week before the scheduled start to notify them that she could not do the program.  Since that point an instructor has been sought but to date no one has been able to do the regularly scheduled slot.  We are continuing to recruit an instructor and in order to make the program work for this semester may have to change times but we are confident the program will be offered being in the next couple of weeks.

Topic: Hours to study on campus

Idea: Allow students from different disciplines 24 hour access for places to study within their departments or schools(ie nursing) and only make accessible by using ID registered to major. Other wise keep the library open alot longer. Many students have to go to PC or Brown and it is an inconvenience..

Response: Thanks for your inquiry regarding 24-hour student access to study areas.  It is always good to hear from students!  Below my signature is a copy of your original submission.

Maintenance of 24-hour access in academic buildings other than the library is difficult from a security point of view, so I asked our Library Director Dr. Hedi BenAicha to respond.  Here is what he said:

“The library has extended hours until midnight, during the three weeks inclusive of the exam period (Sunday to Thursday open until midnight and Friday until 5:00 pm).  Of course the library is also open on Saturday from 11:00 to 5:00.

The library also posts signs during the academic year to inform students that they can reserve study rooms until midnight at the Student Union from Monday to Friday.

I have received similar requests from some students to keep the library open longer or provide 24 hours access.  I investigated many scenarios and the most promising was the use of the Reinhardt room. However, even that was impossible because of the lack of access to a restroom.”

That is not the end of the story.  RIC is developing a new strategic plan which will set the goals for our campus for the next five years.  A major element of this plan will be to reach populations of students who are non-traditional in their work lives, hours of study, and phases of life, and so there are some objectives in the draft plan that address your question.  Specifically:

Make courses available at non-traditional times (e.g., nights, Saturdays) to accommodate undergraduate, graduate and continuing education student needs.

Make support offices accessible by reviewing open hours in relation to student, staff and faculty schedules and determine best use of time/open hours (bookstore, records, etc.).

Determine best practices at aspirational peer institutions regarding food service, bookstore, Recreation Center, student union, centers (Unity, Women’s, etc.) and adopt them at RIC.

So I expect that we will be making some changes in the next couple of years that will help students gain access to study locations for much longer hours.

Topic: Master Plan Charrette

Idea: I believe that Saratoga & Associates in partnership with the college should provide digital images of their charrettes that could be distributed via facstaff so that all members of the campus community have a chance to study the potential solutions and provide digital feedback.  In this digital age I am surprised that this was not an option as I have learned that many of my peers institutions went with a digital only solution that was responded to 2-1 over hardcopy viewings at a central location on campus.

Response: Great suggestion! We discussed this at the community charrette tonight and concluded that the Idea Box established by President Carriuolo would meet the need for a communication portal, rather than establishing another. Many pictures were taken at the charrette and will be shared.   Data gathered over intercession for space analysis, at interviews last week, and at the charrette this week will be used to produce potential solutions that can be posted to receive electronic feedback from the community.  This work will continue through the summer.

Topic: New Degree Program

Idea: Health care is a career with many aspects. I've noticed that at RIC there is a minor in Gerentology. Would there be an opportunity for the college to expand that program and develop it into a Health Care Policy/Management degree program? The only programs that I am aware of in Rhode Island are at New England Tech where a person needs an Associates in Allied Health to enter into that program or the other option is at Providence College; they offer a Health Care Policy Management program but it is a full time day prgram and cannot be earned either part time or int he evening.

Response: We are working on those very things!  In our quest to find more alternatives for intended nursing majors, the Dean of Arts and Sciences is working with the Sociology Department to expand the Gerontology Minor and Certificate into a full-blown major.  Also, the Schools of Nursing and Management are collaborating on a new degree program in Health Care Management.  We expect these programs to be approved this year and up and running in fall 2010.

Topic: Community

Idea: There needs to be more positive interaction between the professors and students here at RIC. The students do not feel that their professors are approachable for career advice and the professors have no time to get to know their students or some do not care. Maybe departments could host coffee hours for students and faculty to interact and to network. There needs to be more cooperation between departments. They are here to benefit the students after all. Teaching is a reciprocal process. It should be a lifetime one as well. There need to be more initiatives in this area for the non-traditional learners returning to an environment where they can use their experience and be respected for it. Thank you.

Response: In terms of student/faculty interaction, data from the National Survey of Student Engagement show that student-faculty interactions have been rated at an increasing high level over the last three administrations of the survey (2005, 2007, 2009) by the freshmen and seniors who took the survey.  These results are comparable to our peer-group institutions.  Overall, students recognize that our faculty are very committed to their success and welfare.  However, given the faculty’s heavy teaching and advising loads, we want to increase the quality of these interactions through expanded undergraduate-research opportunities and through a larger complement of faculty doing advising, thereby reducing the advising loads and allowing more time for interaction.  Through department chairs’ workshops, which are new as of last year, departments are hearing more about other departments’ approach to managing their large student populations.  Finally, the college’s draft strategic plan for 2015 contains an explicit set of steps for improving our reach and services to nontraditional students in a variety of ways.

Page last updated: Aug. 15, 2012