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The president wants to know what students think.
the Gauntlet

Weingarten lunches with students

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Looking for a chance to voice a beef about your university experience?

This semester the University of Calgary is holding a series of luncheons, giving students the chance to speak directly with the man himself, U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten.

"It's important for people like me to hear directly, not filtered, from students about things they want to tell me about the university," said Weingarten.

Invitations were emailed to select students inviting them to attend one of five sessions that will be held. Invitees included Dinos athletes, Students' Union leaders, residence leaders, students who have received financial awards and those students that are heavily involved with clubs around campus.

"This is a group of students who either through athletics or clubs, are students that for whatever reason have chosen to become more engaged with the university than just going to class," said Weingarten.

Weingarten said the luncheons needed to be small to ensure engagement between himself and students.

"What's different about this year is we've deliberately targeted groups of students who--in different ways--have decided to become engaged with the university beyond classes," said Weingarten. "That said, it's not exclusive to them, any student can walk into these things."

"Part of what we'll talk about is the reputation of the university and what goes into making the reputation of the university," said Weingarten. "What things are working well and what isn't working?"

At the end of March, the Globe and Mail will be doing their university rankings based on student surveys. Weingarten encouraged students to take the time to fill out the surveys.

"Why is [the survey] important?" he asked. "Because on the basis of what you tell us, we make decisions that deflect huge amounts of money to things like more spaces for students to sit, or making campus wireless, or building new buildings, or renovating buildings. We do take these concerns seriously. It influences resource allocation, budget decisions and activities that we engage in at the university."

Concerns students brought up at the first luncheon on Jan. 10 included the fear that teachers are chosen for their research rather than their teaching skills, the lack of co-operative programs, the state of undergraduate science laboratories and the Maclean's university rankings.

Some students were skeptical of Weingarten's responses.

"I felt he was defending a lot of things," said first-year engineer Darshni Pillay. "But we know how it is, we're here first hand, and it's not working. You have to admit there is a problem."

Another student at the luncheon shared Pillay's concerns about whether or not action will be taken.

"He heard a lot of our comments--so if he actually does what he says--taking into account peoples' suggestions, then this will have been useful," said first-year engineer Ana Grubor.

The luncheons run until the end of February.

"In my business there's a famous expression: 'Don't listen to what people say, watch what they do,'" said Weingarten.

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