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The Class of 2006 ... and beyond

As hundreds of potential first years stroll Grounds this week and next, many will decide whether to come to the University based on the taste of the dinning hall food or the cleanliness of the dorm room they happen to visit. Yet, in the excitement of the non-stop activities of the Days on the Lawn recruitment effort, the vast majority of these potential first years do not realize that the University is undergoing a period of vast change and that their college experience will greatly differ from that of current fourth years now cherishing their last few weeks at Mr. Jefferson's University.

According to many outgoing student leaders, the four years the class of 2006 will spend at the University will be a time of immense social as well as physical change. Many feel that when they return for their five-year reunion the University will not only look but also function very differently.

Outgoing Fourth-Year Class President Portman Wills believes the most serious issue that will affect incoming first years will be how the University solves its budget problems.

"The University is entering an unprecedented budget crunch," Wills said. "This budget crunch is hitting departments which have historically been extremely popular the hardest. The economics and politics department, in particular, are two of the largest departments in the College and, with today's budget issues, they are having trouble hiring the numbers of faculty they need. It's unfortunate because those are two of our strongest departments, yet with fewer teachers and consequently more crowded classrooms, I fear that fewer students will opt to major in these disciplines."

Wills also sees the University facing a growing influx of legacy students at the University. When the College first opened its doors to women in the 1970s, the University almost doubled in size. "Obviously not every legacy applicant will be allowed admission to the University. It will be interesting to see how this affects the relationship between those alumni and the University," he said.

Outgoing Student Council President Abby Fifer said the changes she sees in the future fall in several catagories.

"What we are seeing is an interesting mix of physical and social changes," Fifer said. "The University walks an interesting line between wanting to be of Ivy League caliber and offering students services that are more along the line of state universities."

She also noted how construction will affect incoming students' college experience.

"Construction will be huge in the next four years and new students will be dealing with some major construction throughout all four of their years here," Fifer said.

She noted impending construction of the new basketball arena, the new student center and the South Lawn project, which will see the decimation of New Cabell Hall, among other major changes.

"The new Special Collections Library will be one of the most minor changes students will see," Fifer said.

Fifer believes these construction plans inevitably will cause a major upheaval in course locations, and possibly cause future students to trek to North Grounds locations to attend undergraduate classes, she added.

Fifer said student life changes will take place on several levels, some obvious and some not so apparent for future classes.

She sees the University offering more food options and other auxiliary services in the coming years. Some of these services include completely online course evaluations and an advising system that will aim to pair incoming students with advisors more attuned to their career goals.

One trend Lauren Purnell, a third-year College student and former Arts and Sciences Council president, predicts for the coming years is an increasing push toward interdisciplinary majors.

Such a trend exposed itself through the recent joint efforts of the economics department and the Commerce School to establish interdisciplinary classes in Rouss Hall, Purnell said. More interdisciplinary programs will mean more team teaching and multi-department collaboration for future classes, she added.

Race relations presents another key area that will continue to play a large role in student life at the University, according to Gordon Braxton, a fourth-year Commerce student and creator of the race relations seminar Reflections on Complexions.

"With recent developments at the University of Michigan to end affirmative action policies I think affirmative action will become a hot topic again at the University" in the comming years, Braxton said.

He said he hopes the University will continue to promote an enduring discussion on race relations issues through continuing programs such as Sustained Dialogue.

Braxton cited the continuing growth of minority Greek organizations as another issue that will grow in importance.

"In my time here the number of minority Greek groups has doubled and these groups will continue to be strong in the future," he said.

Paul Gigante, a fourth-year College student and former University Judiciary Committee Chairman, agreed the class of 2006 and beyond will face many challenges and changes, but said future students will greatly benefit from one trend he has witnessed in his four years at the University.

"Student self governance hasn't been as visible in the past," Gigante said. "But, in my time here, the Bloomfield and Smith assault cases have done something to make students more aware of the influence and importance of their governance systems. They've proven what an amazing and necessary functional part of this University student self governance is"

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