President and Provost discuss Trump Jr., DACA repeal at Faculty Senate meeting

President and Provost discuss Trump Jr., DACA repeal at Faculty Senate meeting

President and Provost discuss Trump Jr., DACA repeal at Faculty Senate meeting
September 13
19:47 2017

UNT President Neal Smatresk and Jennifer Evans-Cowley, provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs, hosted the first faculty senate meeting of the 2017 fall semester Wednesday.

At the meeting, they discussed the university’s response to Hurricane Harvey, enrollment records and Donald Trump Jr. coming to speak. They also spoke about how they intend to help students impacted by the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Other topics brought up at the meeting included how to improve the university, finances and enrollment.

Students impacted by Hurricane Harvey

A couple weeks after Hurricane Harvey, UNT is still helping students who were affected by the storm by working to accommodate them.

Eight students transferred to UNT from other universities in response to the storm. A total of 40 UNT students who were affected by Harvey were given school funds and allowed to start school late. There were also a handful of students who were on National Guard duty and aiding with the disaster.

The university is still looking into the effects of Hurricane Irma in Florida, Evans-Cowley said.

Record enrollment at UNT

Last year, a record enrollment of over 36,000 students was broken at UNT. This year, the freshman class count grew even more.

“This is the biggest freshman class ever, up 3-4 percent,” Smatresk said. “There is also a new record for National Merit scholars. Last year [it was] 12, this year [it was] 26. Mind blowing number.”

The enrollment of doctoral students has also risen 5.7 percent in enrollment.

Smatresk said the enrollment numbers across the university are remaining healthy and a focus on retention is important.

The response to DACA’s repeal

A national issue brought to the table was DACA, a program that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived here as minors. The discussion centered around its recent repeal.

UNT has over 400 DACA students enrolled, and Smatresk said he will do everything he can to support them.

“They’re our students and we care about them,” Smatresk said. “I am perplexed why we can offer students all over the world jobs but not education.”

Donald Trump Jr. coming to speak

The university made national headlines when they announced Donald Trump Jr. would be a speaker at the Kuehne Lecture Series and released what he would be paid.

Smatresk said the donor devised operation chooses the speakers based on who can draw a crowd. And while some people don’t share the same views as donors, money for scholarships will be rolling in.

“I’ve left my personal opinion out of this, and I will continue to,” Smatresk said. “It is OK to engage in these types of events. I am leaving personal opinions out of the question.”

Changes to academics

In terms of academics, the university will slowly change the TAMS program from STEM-based to STEAM-based, adding art to attract the students who want to stay longer at UNT and study music and other fine arts.

“Arts students are more likely to stay here,” Evans-Cowley said. “We would be fusing creative and technical disciplines.”

Budget cuts were made within TAMS, and UNT is competing with the University of Texas at Dallas.

There are five key conversations that will be discussed through the year with administration. Those keys are working on faculty retention and policy, student success and second year retention, resources and money raising, enrollment planning and digital strategy by figuring out what the next generation of tech-enhanced environments are.

“There is a fierce competition for high school students,” Smatresk said.

A parking and transportation update will be made at the next meeting on Oct. 11.

Featured Image: Provost Jennifer Evans-Cowley (right) takes a question from Senator Gloria Olness. Evans-Cowley gave information regarding the amount of people affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma in the UNT community. Rachel Walters

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Julia Falcon

Julia Falcon

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