Every year, The Diamondback hands out grades for key institutions at the University of Maryland and in the city of College Park. Here’s our report card.
This past year has been a communications struggle for a university administration that should be entering its stride. Closing in on two years since university President Darryll Pines took office, any vestiges of a honeymoon period have faded.
Navigating the administration’s actions and messaging on COVID-19 measures was like trying to avoid a fine on a winding road that has every traffic sign imaginable. Bifurcations, stops and speed limits took the form of inconsistent mask mandates, abrupt ends to services and unenforced testing requirements. The lack of clear messaging led to a confusing situation.
The messaging troubles carried over to other areas as well. Pines’ comments about sexual assault in Greek life and developing Guilford Woods faced backlash. The university eventually paused development of Guilford Woods, seemingly in response to the backlash.
But the university does deserve some credit.
The university made incremental yet notable pay raises for some graduate assistants, and Student Affairs Vice President Patty Perillo indicated some departments could offer a $15 minimum wage for student workers in the coming months. Without a commitment to a date, it remains to be seen whether this teased possibility manifests in paychecks.
There is no substitute for clear communication. The university administration would be best served to convey timelines, priorities and rationales aptly and honestly.
The GSG continued its focused approach to advocate for graduate students.
The insufficiency of current graduate student housing options has been an issue the Graduate Student Government has been cautiously championing. The complexity of the issue requires a measured approach. Accessibility, proximity, zoning restrictions and negative externalities inherent to new developments present persistent challenges.
The GSG has made efforts to evaluate and advocate for affordable developments. Members brought a pragmatic voice to the Guilford Woods debate. The controversial proposal culminated with President Pines and GSG President Tamara Allard announcing a pause on the development. With interest in redeveloping Old Leonardtown to meet graduate student needs and the seeming inevitability of developments in Guilford Woods, the GSG has kept the issue afloat in the university consciousness.
Many of the issues the GSG brought to the forefront had specific financial implications for graduate students. From standardizing internship policies to consolidating mandatory student fees into tuition, GSG supported measures with a clear course of action.
Overall, the body gets marks for consistent, targeted efforts.
City Council: B+
Shortly after, the council moved into a dazzling new city hall building.
Homeownership and housing development remained a focus of the council. The council expanded eligibility for grants and allocated $3 million in federal pandemic relief funds to a neighborhood stabilization project.
The council’s continued commitment in this area helps address ongoing concerns about displacement from new developments.
The council demonstrated its ability to tackle issues relevant to the long-term vitality of the community. A council that listens and acts can perhaps be brought closer to the city it serves, despite paltry poll numbers.
Perhaps the Student Government Association’s biggest struggle is to be taken seriously. It’s an enduring struggle that underlies many of its other struggles.
It’s hard to make sense of the SGA’s sea of resolutions. With a lack of clear focus on defining what actually matters to the undergraduates, the SGA’s advocacy falls short. At least they still talk about improving themselves and substantially raised honoraria for top members.
But the SGA does have the ability to tangibly help students.
The body allocated almost $100,000 for a community center exclusively for student members of the Multicultural Greek Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
This is a positive, necessary step — and it should be the norm, not the exception.
Dorm Life: C
Dorm life continues to be disappointing for students. Water seemed to be a particular foe this year, with residential facilities kept busy with hot water pipe bursts that flooded St. Mary’s Hall and another burst pipe affecting multiple floors of Cumberland Hall. Both issues seem to be due to aging infrastructure.
The resident life department’s plans to remove air conditioning from Cumberland is a step in the wrong direction. Cumberland will become the ninth dorm without air conditioning.
At least unlimited laundry will be included in housing costs next year, so students won’t have to remember to reload their Terrapin Express.
Instead of proactively preventing issues from occurring, resident life is content responding after the fact. When the department does look ahead, changes are ineffective at improving student life — or simply detrimental.
As long as the department prioritizes costs over residents’ lives, students will continue to have a fairly universally dreadful experience living in dorms.
Dining Services: B+
Economic pressure certainly hasn’t made Dining Services’ job any easier this year. Dining halls struggled with ingredient and labor shortages that affected menu item availability. Costs were also one of the causes of the end of take-out dining in the fall.
Dining Services brought Iftar dinners back in the spring to support students observing Ramadan.
251 North suffered the brunt of health issues, from being found non-compliant with two state health code standards to being the source of two alleged cases of food poisoning.
But for all its struggles, Dining Services responded relatively well, raising union-represented workers’ minimum wage to $15 — though non-union workers still lack certain important benefits — and reverting dining halls to take-out only during the omicron variant surge at the end of the fall semester.
Dining Services stumbled a bit with its execution, but its efforts to respond to community concerns despite difficult economic circumstances is commendable.
Devon Milley, editor in chief, is a senior information science and journalism major. She can be reached at email@example.com
Ella Sherman, managing editor, is a senior journalism major with a music and culture minor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nataraj Shivaprasad, managing editor, is a junior electrical engineering major. He can be reached at email@example.com
Anthony Liberatori, opinion editor, is a senior environmental science and policy and philosophy, politics and economics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Ye, opinion editor, is a junior economics and government and politics major. She can be reached at email@example.com