North Texas Daily

Students struggle for answers from the university

Students struggle for answers from the university

Super senior and New Media major Olivia Brown waits by the Cashier department to pay for her shop card for FABLAB on Sept. 23. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Students struggle for answers from the university
September 24
21:00 2015

Linda Kessler | Copy Editor

@LindaKessler

For a university aiming to take on national prominence, UNT’s communication practices often delay students and faculty from handling certain affairs vital to being enrolled in classes or educating the student body.

On college campuses, there are many places students, parents, faculty and staff can go to have their university-related questions and concerns dealt with.

But when those places do not operate efficiently it can lead to what UNT President Neal Smatresk and others call the “UNT runaround.”

Smatresk described the term as ineffective communication when students or faculty are redirected to various departments, or don’t have their issues managed in a concise and timely manner.

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Students wait in line downstairs at the ESSC to speak with a Registrar representative on Sept. 23. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Latasha Phillips, a Marine Corps veteran and transfer student, said she knows all about this issue. A recent experience with UNT left her puzzled at customer service when she had enrollment questions last month.

Phillips, who feels she’s wasted her time, went from the Student Veteran Services office to the General Academic Building, to the Eagle Student Services Center and back again in her search for answers Phillips said have yet to be resolved.

“Two bottles of water later and my anger is through the roof. I make my way back to the GAB and express my frustration,” Phillips said. “An advisor promptly came and wrote me a short form for concurrent enrollment. Why could this not have been done at first you ask? When I find out I’ll let you know.”

Because of situations like this, classes can be dropped, students can lose financial aid and faculty may have trouble getting the resources they need.

“It’s important that everyone here is spending their main efforts doing what they’re supposed to do,” Smatresk said. “The more you have to spend time on peripheral activities, the more it detracts from your experience. In my opinion, if we want to attract and retain the best students and faculty, we need to offer great customer service.”

Smatresk said poor communication can prohibit students from learning, progressing and enjoying campus life, and can keep faculty from interacting with students and doing their research.

Hope Garcia, executive director of the student affairs administration, said sometimes a student’s issue is more complex than what one person or department might be able to take care of. And that’s when people are turned away, referred to another office or given an “I don’t know how to do that.”

Hope Garcia describes the issues students and faculty face when an issue is not addressed directly, and students are shuffled around campus searching for a solution, on Sept. 22. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Hope Garcia describes the issues students and faculty face when an issue is not addressed directly, and students are shuffled around campus searching for a solution, on Sept. 22. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

“The runaround comes from trying to refer them, so [the student] ends up being told to go to all of these different places,” Garcia said. “Then they get to the new place, the same thing happens and the person says ‘I know this, but not these answers.’ So the student goes all around campus, doesn’t get what they need and they possibly end up even more confused.”

But the administration is currently developing methods to improve its communication with students, faculty and whomever else may need the university’s services.

“The first layer involves effective core systems and policies, for example software, customer relations modules and mobile applications,” Smatresk said. “But the second layer involves culture change, and that’s making sure we treat each other the best we can and provide a great level of care, support and customer service.”

Right now there are multiple places on campus for students to ask questions, including departments in Chestnut and Sage halls and the ESSC, as well as access to their advisers.

But Smatresk said having these locations spread far apart may not be such a great thing.

He said he wants to implement a go-to office in Sage Hall and develop mobile apps for students, which will allow them easier access for paying their tuition and registering for classes.

“One of our challenges is that our services are fairly distributed, so sometimes students don’t know where to start,” Smatresk said.

Officials said the support center in Sage would save more students from the kind of frustration Phillips had to endure. If they can go to one area and receive efficient customer service, questions can be answered, problems dealt with and time saved.

The planning for Sage’s one-stop-shop has already started. Smatresk said this year UNT will start the program on the first floor of Sage Hall, and by next year it should be completely in place.

“If you think of the Union as a one-stop-shop of student support services that are non-classroom related, [Smatresk] sort of wants to recreate that on the academic side,” Garcia said. “Think about all the classes you have in your schedule, you might need to see the math lab, take the GRE and go see the writing lab. So his idea is that you should be able to do that on your lunch break in one building.”

She added that creating the one-stop-shop, improving customer service and adding the class concierge are all big steps in addressing the runaround, but that it’s ultimately a student answered issue.

“You should always do your job with the thought ‘did the students say yes UNT gave them the answer,’” Garcia said. “You say ‘this is what I’m doing at work today. I’m trying to get students to feel that UNT answers their questions and meets their needs.’”

Featured Image: New Media senior Olivia Brown waits in the ESSC to pay for her shop card on Sept. 23. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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1 Comment

  1. Leroy
    Leroy October 31, 20:31

    This happens by their design, not by accident.

    Reply to this comment

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