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Poorman discusses dorms, cable, wireless

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, September 1, 2005

Vice President for Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman was the man with a plan at Wednesday’s Senate meeting.

Make that plans.

Stepping up to the podium, a smiling Poorman took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, then proceeded to share his vision for both the short- and long-term future of the University.

Poorman said the most immediate goals are getting cable television, improving cell phone reception and creating an extensive wireless network, all in the residence halls.

The push for cable television – which Poorman called “a great collaborative effort” between the Executive Vice President, Business Operations, the Office of Information Technology, Student Affairs and Student Government – will tentatively culminate next August.

“All I can say is, at this point, there’s been tremendous progress,” Poorman said. “I can feel the elation waves already.”

Increasing cell phone reception in the residence halls is another priority, Poorman said. He cited recent surveys revealing that only 20-to-25 percent of students use their room phones, while a full 93-to-96 percent of students have cell phones.

The third technological goal, the wireless network in the residence halls, should be completed this spring along with the cell phone reception, Poorman said.

But he was quick to point out the downside of the new developments – construction in the residence halls.

“We might all brace ourselves for a little inconvenience,” Poorman said.

In addition to these three concrete projects, Poorman discussed several larger goals originating from Student Affairs, most currently in the research stage.

With plans to build four new dorms on the horizon, the quality of residence life is one theme Student Affairs is exploring, Poorman said. A 15-month study using surveys and focus groups was conducted along with a two-year study conducted by an outside consultant.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Ann Firth said the University had hired an architect from St. Louis who specializes in campus projects to take a look at Notre Dame’s situation.

“We’ve gone from the big strategic plan to the Future of Residence Life Plan to the Residence Master Plan,” Firth said.

While no date has been assigned for the beginning of construction on the new dorms, Firth said the University is now dealing with “the nuts and bolts” of the project. Poorman said construction was contingent on how long it takes to raise the money through a capital campaign.

Another long-term goal is Residential Scholars, which Poorman described as a “real simple, low maintenance” pilot program being tested in St. Edward’s and Welsh Family Halls, designed to increase faculty-student relationships outside of the classroom.

In addition, task forces have been established to examine graduate and professional student needs, the spiritual lives and needs of students, residence hall staff training and recruitment, employer perspectives of Notre Dame students and graduates and student gambling.

“Gambling has become a huge issue on college campuses,” Poorman said. “We’re beginning to see the hints of gambling problems. And since I teach undergraduates, I think it’s safe to say there’s probably a significant gender divide on this issue.”

While he did not classify Notre Dame students’ gambling habits as a crisis, Poorman said he hoped to follow the lead of other universities and “try to be slightly ahead of the issue.”

The Stepan Center is yet another aspect of Poorman’s plan. He said he wants to see the easily recognizable building replaced with “a more serviceable facility.” Soon, he expects to have “a very preliminary rendering of what the building might look like.”

Poorman was also quick to praise Student Government representatives, especially student body president Dave Baron and vice president Lizzi Shappell, for their ongoing dedication and hard work on initiatives like the Gender Relations Center, the TRANSPO deal, the NDBay acquisition and the upcoming inauguration for University President Father John Jenkins.

“These people have not been sleeping, I want you to know,” Poorman said. “In seven years, no administration has hit the ground running as well as David and Lizzi.”

And the University is running right alongside them. When Poorman came to the end of his outline, he seemed to be searching for something more to add.

“I guess other than that, there’s not much going on,” he said, laughing.