BY EMILY BEARG
“Why does Hemenway stink?” “Gatorade at the Hark: $1.50, Elsewhere: $1.25” “Open up the heat at the Library…. Brrr!” “What does Dean Clark do other than raise money?”
In the past few weeks the Law School Council Sound-Off Board in Harkness Commons has become increasingly cluttered with a wide range of complaints and concerns about Law School facilities, personnel and practices, due to Student Advocate Alex Venegas’ efforts to entice student participation with more visible advertising.
According to LSC President Bill Dance, the board has been in existence since the position of student advocate was created three years ago.
“It’s meant to be an interactive gripe board,” Dance said. “It’s a way for people to communicate with the student advocate, who is supposed to take care of concerns and report back.”
“It helps because administrators and faculty walk by and see the postings, so it creates an awareness on their part,” he added.
Over the years, however, the Board has served multiple functions. Last year there were a series of flirtatious and complimentary remarks about a “Lenny Kravitz” look-alike student, as well as exchanges between secret admirers.
“I saw you in Civ Pro wearing your big black boots and your eyes met mine…”
“My eyes only met yours because you belched.”
These sorts of postings dwindled off after the summer, and this year, comments have focused on more basic student concerns, ranging from dining suggestions to throwing undergraduates out of Hemenway Gym, Dance said.
Three-L Lowell Plotkin, last year’s student advocate, said the most common complaints have traditionally been about Hemenway Gymnasium — for not being open until late September, having limited hours and lacking functioning equipment. Unfortunately, the standard response is that “the law school doesn’t own it.”
Nevertheless, Venegas has been working to at least get the gym to open at 7 a.m., rather than 9 a.m., while explaining that changes to Hemenway are still difficult and slow. For example, maintenance for the treadmills is outsourced, which creates holdups.
“Many changes are easy to get done,” Venegas said. “Simple, relatively low budget items are easy.”
For instance, earlier this year a student complained about the lack of Diet Mountain Dew at the Hark, a deficiency that was promptly remedied. The addition of the pool table and foosball to the Hark also came about last year as a result of complaints on the Board.
Another recurring theme in postings has been moving to online access for a variety of student services. Now that online bidding for courses and interviews have been implemented, all that remains is to make grades and the drop/add process available online.
“I mainly work with Rebecca Andreasson, a facilities manager, on everything. She has been extremely responsive in fixing small issues,” Venegas said. “She plans to put out more picnic tables in the spring, and generally works hard to make life easier for students.”
Venegas has also consulted with Megan Harvey in food services about asking Sodexho to offer different portion sizes as well as a “healthy choice” meal option.
“My main goal this semester has been to increase communication of the problems, to hopefully get quicker turn around,” Venegas said.
In terms of policing the types of comments posted, Dance said that the LSC has put up signs telling people to use some judgment, and that the LSC reserves the right to take offensive postings down.
Last year, there were several attacks on a COOP worker that were removed from the board, and this year the LSC decided to cross out the name of a Registrar staff member accused of being a “jerk.”
“Issues like student-staff problems are a little more sensitive, and the Dean of Students has recently suggested some type of mediation to deal with these issues,” Venegas said.
Aside from posting a complaint on the Sound-Off board, Dance mentioned that other ways for students to express concerns are to come to LSC meetings, talk to LSC members at their happy hours, or apply for a position on one of the student-faculty administrative committees that are formed at the beginning of each year.