Assistantships approved despite conflicting views

By Gus Bode

University plans to finalize assistantship criteria within next few days

Despite the SIU Board of Trustees’ approval of undergraduate assistantships at its meeting Thursday, SIUC representatives expressed conflicting views that questioned the program’s direction.

Michael Jarard, Undergraduate Student Government president, attended the meeting at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield and questioned if the program was an opportunity for skilled students or a recruiting tool for the University.

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“We have a problem with retention. We need more aid to students, and we need more options,” Jarard said. “Everything is geared toward attracting students; we have to keep them here once we get them.”

Ted Clark, new BOT student trustee as of July 1, also brought up similar concerns about whom the undergraduate assistantships will help come fall.

He said the policy itself of including undergraduate assistantships into the University work system was not in debate, but the specifics of the program were unclear.

“Wendler is very innovative with this idea, and he is the first one that has done something like this,” Clark said. “Are we using them to lure freshmen, and then offering to juniors and seniors?”

Clark said the decision was unanimous, and he believes BOT officials are in support of the program. He said he wants to see a finalized report about the assistantships soon, and he hopes that the program will be flexible.

Approximately $750,000 has been allotted for undergraduate assistantships as part of the $8.5 million generated from the tuition increase.

Wendler explained the proposal for the workships during the BOT meeting and said he hopes to keep the opportunity open to all undergraduates.

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“We expect to be able to mix it, but it is primarily for upperclassmen,” Wendler said. “This doesn’t mean freshmen are not included.”

Kristi Jacobson, a junior in computer science from Carbondale, also said all students should get a chance to do research within their fields.

“It should be open to everyone, not be selective,” Jacobson said. “Someone who has the skills and academic standing should be at least considered for it.”

Lori Gettinger, a senior in sociology from Centralia, said she has enjoyed working closely with her professors and would not mind getting paid $10 per hour for furthering her career. She said students in the last years of their degrees should have priority over incoming freshmen.

“Juniors and seniors should have the assistantships,” Gettinger said. “The majority of freshmen and sophomores are undecided, so the upperclassmen should get more of a chance.”

Undergraduate students expressed different opinions about whom the assistantships should include, but they agree the program is a positive project for the University.

Chancellor Walter Wendler said about 100 undergraduate assistantships are slated for this year, and he hopes they will double the next year.

Some college deans, such Shirley Clay Scott, are interested in incorporating undergraduate assistantships into their departments, but they also have concerns.

Scott, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said there is a large amount of money to fund these assistantships, but it is not enough to be distributed to all the colleges.

“It would give us some wonderful opportunities for students to do things related to their major, but I think things need to be re-examined perhaps and have some questions and details answered,” Scott said.

Scott is also concerned about the large cut her college has taken and the reduction in funding for all areas of her department, including graduate assistantships.

Wendler has also extracted $1.2 million from the tuition increase to be used for graduate assistantships, but he said the money may not prevent some assistantships from being cut from colleges.

“There has been so many cuts for academic affairs,” Wendler said. “We are hurting.”

Wendler said he would like to finalize the details and criteria for the undergraduate assistantships within the next few days to better inform the colleges of the program. But overall, he wants to create the best program for the students.

“A person in this position must express interest in a particular area or research unit, but it is expected to be offered to the whole campus.”

Reporter Samantha Edmondson can be reached at [email protected]

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