Letter to the Editor
Below is the full version of the letter to the editor from Dean Salinger.
I am writing to correct the incomplete and unbalanced account presented in the October 4th article entitled “Low Funding Leaves SAAS in the Dust”. Although the author contacted me prior to submitting the article, none of the information I provided in a September 27th response was included.
The first matter I addressed was Student Support Service (SSS) staffing which, at the time, included a full-time advisor, a brand new position of faculty director and nine peer advisors. I also indicated to the writer that the SSS Assistant Director position would be filled in early October and that has transpired. Dr. Natalie Schonfeld was appointed effective October 1st. The nine peer advisors represent a 50% increase in the number of peer advisors employed by SAAS; they are evenly divided between those who served in a similar capacity last year and those who are new to the peer mentor program this year. In addition to daily one-on-one mentoring, the peer advisors partner with the staff to offer workshops on a regular basis. Recent and upcoming topics include CalTeach, UROP Research Opportunities, Stress Relief, Study Skills, REACH, FAFSA preparation, Mid-Quarter Reality Check, Study Abroad, Staying Involved on Campus, Planning for Graduate School, and Financial Planning as well as speakers from the Career and Cross Cultural Centers.
The October 4th article stated correctly that the cost of a LARC tutorial for all former Bridge students will be covered, but it failed to mention that Pell-eligible students affiliated with SSS whose GPA is under 2.75 will also receive a free LARC tutorial. Also omitted were the numerous improvements to the Summer Bridge program. For example, Freshman Summer Bridge included two new courses and, unlike years past, one course provided GE credit. The Transfer Summer Bridge program doubled in size from last year and, while we maintained the Introduction to Research course, students chose a second course related to their major, enabling them to make progress toward their degrees. Furthermore, we greatly expanded the co-curricular activities for both programs and eliminated policies that barred cell phones or restricted students’ movement during off program hours, since it is our belief that the students should be treated like adults. Finally, we reconfigured the former SAAS space in preparation for the current academic year, by creating computer labs, study rooms, and a student lounge for informal gatherings and the informational workshops.
As I stated in my response to the writer, I was troubled to learn that some students may not feel SSS is meeting their expectations or needs. I therefore asked that any concerned students contact me or an SSS staff member so that we can act on their input. I also sent an email to the writer as soon as the SSS Assistant Director was named, asking her to join me and Dr. Schonfeld for a conversation about SSS but, sadly, she, along with several other former peer advisors quoted in the article, have refused to engage in further dialogue.
SSS is a vibrant, active unit, serving our students, and striving for excellence in programming.
Sharon V. Salinger
Division of Undergraduate Education
University of California, Irvine