The University and Its Environment
February 20, 1995
CHAPTER 9: UNIVERSITY LIFE
This section deals with student, staff, and faculty life at the University. Although we focus on student facilities and activities, we recognize that faculty and staff share many of the same concerns and use many of the same facilities. The line between the academic and nonacademic life of students has blurred, and many individuals participate in university life both as employees and as students. Students and employees share interests in child care, health care, recreation, transportation and parking, and many other facets of university and community life.
Without repeating passages from Achieving Distinction, we wish to note that many positive aspects of university life are a direct consequence of the facilities, management, and services provided by the City of Iowa City and its progressive governance. The lives of The University of Iowa and Iowa City are tightly interwoven; each depends heavily on the other. One of the supporting pillars of the quality of life at the University is the infrastructure provided by the City of Iowa City.

Housing

Historically, approximately 90% of entering freshmen have lived in residence halls. That percentage is not expected to change over the next five years. There are no plans to increase residence hall capacity during the next five years; however, alterations to meet requests for more privacy and increased living space per unit may be considered. Because freshmen are given priority, and because capacity will remain constant or decrease as housing configurations are changed to reduce density of residents per building, the percentage of freshmen in the residence halls is expected to increase from 65% in 1994 to about 69% in 1999.
Because residence hall living is closely associated with the first year of university life, residence-based experiences and programs are crucial to both intellectual and personal growth. The composition of students in residence halls will change in coming years as the proportion of racial and ethnic minorities increases in entering classes. Hence, as the ethnic and cultural diversity of students in residence halls increases, it is expected that current programs on living in a diverse environment will expand. Students with physical disabilities may also increase in numbers. Programs on sexual preference and non-visible disabilities must expand to promote tolerance and acceptance among residents. Increased diversity requires professionals, graduate assistants, residence assistants, and interns who value and reflect diversity and are competent educators in a diverse environment.
Although residence halls play a prominent role in introducing most entering students to collegiate life, they provide housing to only about one-fifth of the entire student body. Some students live in fraternities and sororities, but most students, including over half of all undergraduates, live off campus. Consequently, the availability of affordable housing in Iowa City and surrounding communities is an important issue to students. It is also of concern to faculty and staff; for example, difficulty in obtaining temporary housing for visiting faculty impacts programs that make heavy use of visitors.
The University should be aware that students who live outside the residence halls have a different academic experience then those who live on campus. Student programs offered through the residence halls expose students to cultural and intellectual activities, but off-campus students must depend on their own initiative and resources to sample the variety of cultural life offered by the University and community. Communication about these opportunities and resources may be improved, in part, by increasing availability and use of enhanced communication technology.

Transportation and Parking

Given that affordability of housing is inversely related to distance from campus, transportation is a central concern to all members of the University community. The close cooperation among the area bus systems, to the credit to all the administrative entities involved in their operation, has produced an efficient transportation mechanism that serves the larger community very well and reduces the environmental impact of the automobile in the area.
Nevertheless, the University and Iowa City have occasional skirmishes over the nemesis of all urban areas and academic institutions--parking. The area receives many daily visitors to the University and to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Many students and employees must commute from great distances. Because parking concerns affect the productivity and safety of visitors, students, staff, and faculty, it is vital that administrators and committees charged with overseeing parking and transportation communicate effectively with the university community. University parking rules, regulations, and priorities should be under constant scrutiny and review with close attention to input from the users of the system. Coordination between city and university is essential to providing necessary parking while minimizing the impact of traffic on both campus and city.

Family Issues

In an era of single parents and dual-career couples, access to affordable, high quality, reliable child care is a prerequisite to enrollment for many students as well as a tool for recruiting and retaining excellent faculty and staff. In response to a Board of Regents child care study and the advice of an ad hoc university committee on child care, the Family Issues Committee led the implementation of the University's five-year plan to improve access to child care including infant care, sick child care, and other services offered on a sliding fee scale. Development of University-wide child care facilities and services is still underway, but there has been a marked improvement in resources and support for child care. Future goals include expanding services to provide part-time on-campus child care, more centers, and greater accessibility.
Another dual-career couples issue, particularly related to the recruitment of faculty and professional staff, is securing adequate employment for spouses or partners of UI employees. It is not unusual for the acceptance of prospective candidates for UI faculty and professional positions to hinge on the employment of a spouse/partner; it is also a significant factor in retention of employees. Recently, in response to a study by a Faculty Senate task force, the University has initiated a program through the Provost's Office for assisting the placement of spouses and partners of faculty and staff. The success of this program is vital to recruitment and retention efforts of the University.

Counseling

Any large organization will have employees with personal difficulties ranging from alcohol and drug abuse to depression, interpersonal conflicts, marital discord, and the host of other problems that are part of modern life. University of Iowa students are served by the University Counseling Center and UI employees by Faculty and Staff Services. Both provide a wide range of counseling and mental health services. Although both centers have labored to make their services known, both could be better utilized by students and employees to deal with common problems and to maintain effective functioning by all members of the University community.
The psychological, health, and safety needs of students will present an increasing challenge to the University in the next five years. More students are coming to the University with diagnosed learning disabilities and behavioral conditions requiring medication and/or psychotherapy. Incidents of psychopathology, violent or antisocial behavior, and harassment are predicted to increase, mirroring the larger society. A recent national study conducted by the Commission on Substance Abuse at Colleges and Universities indicates that more than 90% of violent crime and over 50% of all injuries on campuses are alcohol-related, consistent with UI disciplinary cases. Education about and containment of alcohol abuse is a major academic and campus life issue.

Health Care for Students

Health care reform significantly affects students on campus. Major changes in health care delivery systems are expected to have a negative impact on students and their dependents. While there are no specific data, it is estimated that 25-30% of college students do not have health insurance. Students covered by parents' policies sometimes discover that their coverage is restricted by their plans unless they return to their parents' home. The UI health insurance policy for students has fewer than 4,000 subscribers and about 60% of the policy holders are graduate students. Annual premium increases of 15% or more contribute to a steady decline in subscribers while there is an increasing demand for expanded health care benefits among students. The UIHC has incurred significant financial losses for the care and treatment of students without the ability to pay. The Student Health Service provides low cost care to thousands of students each year. An example of public health services provided by the Student Health Service is the recent meningitis inoculation of over 18,000 students at no cost to the individual. An assessment of student health care coverage and consideration of a system of proof of health insurance coverage is needed within the context of health care reform in the state and at the University.

Recreation and Cultural Activities

Students rate recreational activities at the University among its most important attributes. Both the University and the Iowa City community have improved recreational facilities dramatically in the past decade, including improved multi-purpose recreation centers, bicycling and jogging trails, athletic fields, and many organizations devoted to a wide variety of recreational activities. Awareness of the needs of an active community seems to be well programmed into the administrative and political consciousness of both University and community planners.
The breadth of UI academic programs, the diversity of entire community, and the programming provided by such units as the Iowa Memorial Union, Hancher Auditorium, and the Museum of Art, combine to provide a rich, varied set of cultural and entertainment activities. The increasing participation of historically underrepresented groups in campus life, including minorities, international students, and nontraditional students, has expanded the scope and the vitality of campus activities. Growth in multicultural programming has outstripped available resources to support the more than 400 social, cultural, political, and recreational groups that seek funding for various student activities.

Civility and Safety

College campuses have come under close scrutiny in recent years, with public concern being expressed about crime on campuses and the extent to which students and employees of universities are protected. Required reporting of crimes has served to inform present and prospective members of the University community of the nature and frequency of incidents related to the University. Although The University of Iowa and the Iowa City community are usually rated among the safest of academic communities, tragic events like those of November 1, 1991, remind us that we are not isolated from the violence of our world and we must constantly work to insure the protection of all members of the community.
Civility among all members of the University community is an essential value if the learning community is to thrive. Values that contribute to the enhancement of the quality of campus life and productive citizenship need to be nurtured in students and modeled by faculty, staff, and administrators. Increasing courtesy through volunteer actions of personal consideration for others will allow the sense of a shared community to grow. A high degree of civility is compatible with the vigorous exchange of ideas and discussion of values.
A number of advocacy organizations within the University and Iowa City communities have worked to increase the awareness and the receptivity of all citizens to the concerns of minorities in the community. Our ethnic and cultural diversity is one of the strengths and attractions of our community and we must continually strive to provide a harmonious and attractive environment for all members. While most observers would agree that considerable progress has been made in terms of physical environment, such as emergency telephone systems, disabled access accommodations, programming for rape awareness, improved campus lighting, and various other safety programs, much more still can be done to increase the physical and psychological safety of all members of our community. We must go beyond minimum legal compliance with required physical adjustments for disabled individuals and attempt to meet the spirit of full accessibility. We must strive to make all individuals welcome, safe, and fully included as members of the community. The success of these efforts are the indicators of the warmth and receptivity of the University community.

Concerns about Bureaucracy

Any large, complex organization like The University of Iowa will be constantly challenged to make its offices and services "user-friendly" for every member of the community while maintaining an efficient, cost-effective operation. Part of the price we pay for a decentralized structure is the demand placed on the initiative of each individual to identify and to locate required information, services, or officials. If we understand that "the bureaucracy is us," then we will strive to reduce administrative barriers for each other, as well as for visitors to the University.
Examples of difficulties are familiar to all: Decisions made within one unit often affect operations in other elements of the organization and need to be communicated in a timely manner. The working environment of the University requires effective cooperation between academic departments and service units, often characterized by many procedural steps, multiple forms, and detailed correspondence. Students can sometimes go from office to office in search of a required signature or particular form.
An efficient working environment contributes to the productivity of students, faculty, and staff and promotes a positive impression of the University to the many constituents it serves. The University has depended on individual talents and goodwill to reduce bureaucratic hassles. Even with the lean staffing of most University offices and academic departments, the friendly, helpful attitude of most individuals encountered on campus has usually permitted the system to work effectively. Nevertheless, vigilant monitoring and evaluation of procedures and communications at every level of the University are necessary to maintain effective administrative functioning.

Summary

We have touched on only a few of the factors that define the nature and quality of life at The University of Iowa. Issues like child care, transportation and parking, housing, safety, and recreation affect our success in attracting and retaining members of the University community and enriching the quality of life for all. Larger societal issues like health care reform and treatment of behavioral problems will impact the lives of both students and employees at the University. The trend of increasing breadth in cultural and recreational activities is sure to continue as the UI becomes larger and more diverse. We will be constantly challenged to maintain a friendly, cost-effective, productive working environment with open communications and a minimum of bureaucratic obstacles.