UK should take Winter Break as opportunity to reflect, improve

Top-20 status. Research. Diversity.

It seems that these three things are all we head about from the UK administration this past year.

While I applaud the administration’s fervor in its focus, I cannot help but wonder: Is UK focusing too much on the hot topics for its own good? And are its approaches toward these goals correct?

As both an undergraduate and a minority student, I would like to use this space in the Kernel’s final edition of 2007 to help the administration make its New Year’s resolutions.

In 2008, UK must realize that undergraduates cannot continue to be ignored, nor should they remain near the bottom of UK’s priority list.

Surely research and graduate students are important to achieving UK’s goal of becoming a top-20 university, but these goals cannot be reached without a successful, robust undergraduate program.

Currently, students in four residence halls on North Campus still live without air conditioning each summer.

While this issue is brought up every year, pressure and criticism at the administration’s lack of action dies down as winter sets in. Each year, the administration manages to escape without solving the problem.

The administration should not have placed construction of new parking, hospital and research facilities ahead of solving the dormitory problem, especially since the cost of the latter is only a fraction of any of the former.

As much as tuition rises each year, undergraduates are not receiving the quality education they deserve from the university.

According to UK Institutional Research data, the fall 2006 student-to-faculty ratio was an abysmal 17.9 to 1, which led to large class sections: 265 sections had between 50 and 99 students, and 140 of them had over 100 students.

An inadequate number of faculty members also means more teaching assistants running undergraduate courses. Nothing against TAs, but last time I checked, college students are generally expected to be taught by professors.

Additionally, the administration should review its approach on achieving diversity on campus.

Diversity is more than a person’s skin color, and UK’s efforts should not stop at displaying publicity photos featuring minority students.

One largely overlooked source of diversity on campus is the graduate student population.

Together, international and minority students seeking master’s degrees numbered at 595 in 2006, and those seeking doctoral or professional degree numbered over 1,000, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research.

These graduate students embody more than racial diversity. Many of them are from a foreign culture, follow different traditions and religious practices, and speak English as a second language.

However, these students currently have little involvement on campus.

To integrate these graduate students into the college community, the administration should create programs and activities that are inviting to them. Since many international students do not speak English fluently, programs should be created to help them learn English while getting involved on campus.

These activities would help the graduate students make their experience at UK more enjoyable. The UK community benefits as a whole from these students’ active presence and contribution; and if anything, UK Public Relations will be able to snap numerous photos that genuinely capture diversity.

Ultimately, achieving diversity comes down to each individual.

This Winter Break I will spend my time with my dad, during which we will converse in Chinese and enjoy hearty Chinese food.

I would like to wish all readers a merry Christmas and a fun, relaxing Winter Break.

Linsen Li is a history and journalism junior. E-mail [email protected]