Q: I wanted to raise a concern about Tech's transportation, in particular about the Green Route Buses. Currently the Green Route Buses have a frequency of one bus every 20-40 minute depending upon the time of the day. This is the lowest frequency among all of the buses. To complicate things the Green Route Buses also get delayed a lot, at times by half an hour. Can Georgia Tech increase the frequency of the Green Route and make sure that it arrives on time?
A: Parking and Transportation Services reviews its allocations annually with the Mandatory Student Fee Advisory Committee. Last year, there was an increased focus was on safety, which prompted an additional Midnight Rambler trolley to be added to the current route. This year, Parking and Transportation Services will review its services, including the current Green Stinger route and the resources allotted for its operation, to provide the highest level of service possible. Also, the best option for all transit customers is to utilize NextBus.com or the NextBus app to track the timing of our transit vehicles at each stop.
Q: What is being done to reconcile the disparity between the enrollment growth rate and the rate at which new professors are hired? How is the Institute addressing this issue of classes that are rapidly increasing in size, leading often to undesirably high student to faculty ratios and a lack of classroom spaces large enough to host classes?
A: We are very conscious of the problems caused by the large student-faculty ratio, we are working within our capabilities to increase the number of faculty. Over the past two years we have hired more than 100 faculty. At least 52 of those are completely new positions and resources. We recognize that rate of hiring is barely sufficient to hold our own or barely increase faculty numbers, but we are intent on not losing ground and improve the ratio as we develop new facilities, space, and the economy improves.
Q: Is there a reason why Fall Break isn't on the week of Thanksgiving, especially considering the difficulties of travel over the holiday weekend? If not, wouldn't it be beneficial to both students and faculty (and more efficient) to make this change, decreasing the number of disruptions to the semester and allowing for a more timely recess?
A: There have been numerous discussions over the years with students and the consensus has always been not to combine the two. Thanksgiving is nearly 14 weeks after the beginning of classes, which is too late to provide an appropriate respite for the fall term.
Q: What are some of the evaluations and requirements you make on current and incoming professors?
A: We give weight to research, teaching, and service in annual evaluations and in promotions. Teaching evaluations must be strong, and in many fields, graduate student advising is expected. Publication productivity must be steady, and in some fields external funding is expected. Service to the campus, community, and profession must be present, with higher expectations in this area for more senior faculty. When we hire, we expect candidates to show that they have the potential to do well on these three criteria so that they can advance through the ranks.
Q: Is Georgia Tech planning to introduce any more interdisciplinary majors like Computational Media?
A: There are currently nine interdisciplinary graduate degrees, yet we are constantly reviewing ideas and initiatives from colleges and groups. The X-degree is an example of such an initiative at the undergraduate level. We are also exploring ways for students to explore more than one discipline with greater coherence than you get from a series of free electives.
Q: What are the current plans to make the campus more bike friendly? At current there is a severe shortage of bike racks, with the currently installed ones being, as a result of their design, in general difficult to use. In addition there are a large amount of steps around campus with no ramped alternatives nearby. With all of Georgia Tech's focus on being more green, isn't encouraging bike use a good idea?
A: Val and I actually participated in the first Tour de Tech campus ride last fall to see first hand the improvements that have been made to campus the past couple of years and to see what still needs work. About two years ago, SGA formed a Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Committee made up of students and staff that coordinates activities and facilities improvements for bicycles around campus. Since its formation, the committee has installed new bike racks at the Ford ES&T Building, College of Business and Instructional Center. New bike lanes on Hemphill Avenue and Ferst Drive have also been installed, along with a quick-fix station by the Skiles building for free on-the-go repairs. In areas where bike lanes weren't feasible, sharrows have been painted on many campus streets, including along Fowler Street with the construction of the McCamish Pavilion.
The emphasis on sustainability on campus actually goes hand in hand with bike friendliness; because Georgia Tech requires all new building construction and renovations to meet LEED gold requirements, bike racks are installed with each renovation or new building. Some of the older bike racks on campus may be more difficult to use or less convenient, as they were installed when campus looked much different, but we hope to eventually replace those and draw a bike master plan for campus as well. BIIC members also held a training course for all GTPD officers on state bike safety laws that had changed during the past few years.
The group developed bike.gatech.edu to centralize all bike resources for campus. A new bike suitability map has been created and is available online there and was given out at FASET this summer. We've made the viaCycle bike-share service available to all of the Tech community, a technology and company developed by Tech grads that provides a low-cost way to use a bike for small trips on and near campus. You can check out a bike for free for up to 30 minutes, and for less than $2 for two hours.
This bicycle committee's work has been recognized by the League of American Cyclists, naming Tech a Silver level Bicycle Friendly University, and by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, which named GT its Partner of the Year for 2011. Parking and Transportation Services will conduct another commuter survey this year to gauge the ongoing needs of campus. Starter Bikes continues to offer affordable used bikes to the Tech community, for those who are looking for a new mode of transportation.
Q: What role do you see the University playing in setting the tone for land-use decisions in Midtown, Downtown, Home Park, and other adjacent areas?
A: Being an urban campus, Georgia Tech is surrounded by neighborhoods of different characters. The vitality of our surrounding communities is important to Georgia Tech as we compete to recruit students, faculty and staff. It is also critical to Tech's general reputation as a university on the world stage. In that regard, the Institute has two roles: to be a resource to the communities around us and to set the proper tone in our own land-use decisions on campus.
As to being a resource: We have colleges with curriculum and resources that assist surrounding neighborhoods. For example, Deans Jacqueline Royster (Ivan Allen College) and Alan Balfour (College of Architecture) lead the Georgia Tech Westside Task Force, comprised of individuals from across campus with the purpose of bringing new life to the Institute’s engagement with surrounding neighborhoods including English Avenue, Home Park, Vine City, and Centennial Park. Members of our staff and faculty also play key roles on City of Atlanta land-use committees. Examples here include David Green (College of Architecture) and John Majeroni (Real Estate Development), who sit on the Midtown Development Review Committee. John also serves on the NPU-E Board (our local neighborhood planning unit). Members of our staff volunteer time on the land-use committees of our surrounding neighborhoods.
As to setting the right tone ourselves in land-use decisions on campus: Tech has already played key roles in setting the proper tone. We participated in the development of Blueprint Midtown and led the way with Tech Square as an anchor for the renaissance of Midtown Atlanta. We remain close partners with the Midtown Alliance; Steve Swant, Tech’s executive vice president for Administration and Finance, serves on its Board.
Most recently, Georgia Tech completed a major investment in North Avenue – putting power lines underground, new landscaping, building wider, more pedestrian friendly sidewalks, and constructing the North Avenue Dining facility in a manner that engages the street.
Q: College students spend thousands of dollars each year on textbooks. What initiatives are being taken at Georgia Tech to lower these costs for students? Will we follow in the footsteps of other institutions and begin using free, open source textbooks for courses that are required for a breadth of majors? If not, why?
A: The University System of Georgia is looking into open access textbooks, but the market is still very new and the quality of texts is extremely uneven, so textbook selection currently is and should be up to the faculty.
The Tech bookstore has instituted a lease plan for textbooks so that students pay for a semester's use of the content, not for full ownership of the book. For the Fall 2012 semester, students saved more than $260,000 on their book purchases through the Georgia Tech bookstore (when compared to the new book cost).
Q: How does one get invited or have the opportunity for a breakfast meeting with the President that students, faculty and staff participate in?
A: President Peterson hosts breakfasts in his office with groups of staff, faculty or students, rotating the groups each month. Invitees from all three groups are recommended by Cabinet members and Deans at the beginning of each academic year and are chosen randomly from the list of recommendations.