Classes begin Monday, Aug. 30, at the University of Montana. While some back-to-school hallmarks are forever the same—fresh notebooks, football games, a nip in the air—the beginning of a new school year also brings change. This year at the University, there are new hires, new buildings, new rules—and new art. For old students wondering what’s new, for new students wondering what’s up, for Missoulians wondering what it’s like to go back to UM these days, here’s a compilation of changes to be aware of in 2004–05.
• The University’s grading system has changed. Rather than using only solid letters A, B, C, D and F, instructors can now assign pluses and minuses—though to preserve the 4.0 GPA scale, there will be no A-pluses, says Associate Registrar Laura Carlyon. The “pass/no pass” grading option has also changed to a “credit/no-credit” option, with grades D- and above receiving course credit. The switch is largely semantic but was also instituted to eliminate grading discrepancies among departments that had different opinions as to whether a D was considered passing, says Louis Hayes, last year’s chairman of the Academic Standards and Curriculum Review Committee. Students taking courses for their general education requirements, says Carlyon, must take them for a traditional letter grade.
• There are some significant new hires this year: Patrick Weasel Head will be the first director of American Indian Student Support Services, a 2-year-old program of which Weasel Head was the interim director last year. “The program was designed to create services to help connect American Indians to the campus,” says Dean of Students Charles Couture, “not only improving recruitment, but also retention of Native American students.”
Jed Liston will be the assistant vice president for enrollment services, replacing retired Director of Enrollment Services Frank Matule. Asked if Liston’s position was created in part to increase recruiting efforts to out-of-state students, Couture says the University is “always interested in more out-of-state students because they pay for the full cost of their education. It’s a continu[ing] goal.”
Candy Holt, a longtime UM administrator, will be the new director of the University Center, overseeing “dozens, if not 100–200” staffers involved with student programs housed in the UC, says Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM) President Gale Price.
Don Read, the retired UM football coach who took the Griz to a national championship in 1995, will replace Wayne Hogan as UM’s athletic director. Jean Cornwall will replace Marie Porter as associate athletic director.
• The cost of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield student health insurance plan is going up—from $498 to $545 per semester, says Student Insurance Representative Deena Carpenter. But while a student who was registered for seven or more credits used to be automatically charged for insurance (and you needed a minimum of four credits to have the insurance option), this year a student taking at least one state-supported or self-supported credit is eligible for student insurance, and no student will be billed automatically.
• The price of student football tickets is also going up—from more than 3,000 free student tickets distributed per game in past years to $7 per ticket this year, says ASUM’s Price (general admission tickets are $22). The student athletic fee will increase $2 per semester—from about $30 to $32 per fall semester, says Price—for the next four years. These increases are “part of the deficit reduction plan,” she says, referring to the athletic department’s approximately $1 million standing deficit from last year (about $580,000 in operating shortfall, and about $380,000 in accounting errors).
• The University is doing away with paper bills starting this year, says Director of University Relations Rita Munzenrider. Now students will receive electronic bills on their CyberBear e-mail accounts and can choose to pay by credit card or check. Replacing paper bills with electronic billing should save the University about $29,000 a year, says Munzenrider. (Another on-line upgrade is UM’s website, which has been refined to be more user-friendly and informative, she adds.)
• Students are moving in to the first UM apartment complex designated for single students only—as opposed to students with dependents—on Southwest Higgins. When construction is completed at the end of August, the Lewis and Clark Village will have 198 two- and three-bedroom apartments to house 462 students at a cost of $375 per month per bed, says Director of Residence Life Ron Brunell. A handful of students moved in on July 15; about 50 students are living there now, and about 350 beds have been rented for the fall, says Brunell. Rent includes all utilities except for phone and high-speed Internet, he says, and this year cable TV is included for the first time.
• Adjacent to the two new parking lots at the Lewis and Clark Village will be a new transit center with shuttle bus service and an indoor waiting area, says UM Public Safety Director Kenneth Willett. The parking lot will offer 300 new spaces in addition to the spaces provided for the new apartments, he says, which should displace some of the traffic congestion closer to campus. For now, there will be no charge or permits to park in the lots. The University has also purchased another bus, and Mountain Line will be changing its routes “to shorten their headway” and provide faster service, says Willett.
•The lobby of the president’s office in Main Hall has a new look this year, thanks to an art loan from a private collector who wishes to remain anonymous. “Landscape of an Armchair” by Willem de Kooning is about 5 feet by 7 feet, says Executive Assistant to the President Robert Frazier. The donor, says Frazier, will loan UM a new art work every 90 days. The de Kooning painting can be viewed from 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday, until October 31.