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Student voices and concerns: How to be heard

    By Teakre Vest. October 24, 2013 - 8:49 am


Students might wonder what their university is doing for them and even ask, “Why isn’t my school fixing students’ problems?” The Kalamalama consulted Scott Stensrud, Hawaii Pacific University’s special assistant to the president for student retention, to find out why it seems student issues aren’t always resolved and what HPU is doing for its students.

Stensrud’s first piece of advice for students was to make their concerns known to the administration, not just to their peers.

“We don’t see if from the student point of view,” Stensrud said. “We are looking at it from the administrative side.” He encouraged students to speak up as sometimes the administration is unaware of the problems students are facing.

Students should identify the issue and then take it to the appropriate source to get it resolved. Stensrud broke it down into a step-by-step process:

First, talk to the faculty or staff member related to the concern. If that doesn’t work or isn’t feasible, students should contact the department chair, whose email is listed in HPU’s online directory.

The next step is going to the dean of the college, whose contact information also is on the HPU website. Stensrud’s advice is to “keep calm and take the emotion out of it, state all the facts … make the change, take the leadership role.”

Students can also leave comments that will be read and reviewed by the administration at

One of Stensrud’s current projects is a wait list for class registration, which should be up and running by spring 2014. Students trying to register for a class that is already full will be placed on a wait list; if a spot opens up as a result of a student dropping the class, the next person in line on the list will receive an email and have 24 hours to accept the spot or the position will be offered to the next wait-listed student.

Stensrud said the wait list system would help the registration process and give the university a better gauge of students’ class needs. Officials will be able to track the time slots in which students need classes and what courses students need most; this data then could be used to offer high-demand classes or schedule sessions at more convenient times.

The university is working on a number of other ways to try to meet student needs. It is trying to make food more accessible for night students by adding more vending machines; in addition, it has fixed some Wi-Fi coverage problems at Hawaii Loa campus and a power issue in the MP building, and has worked out a way to offer night students discounted parking.

HPU last year also implemented online class evaluations that are completely anonymous and can’t be traced by handwriting in an attempt to encourage students to provide honest feedback. This year the university is working on “early alert” evaluations, which will be available three to four weeks into classes to get an understanding of “what’s going on,” as Stensrud put it.

“We need students to do that; their comments are listened to,” he said.

The early-alert evaluation, which also will be anonymous, will feature 10 questions to find out things like whether instructors are responsive, effective and connected, and what in the class is working or not working.