Letters to the Editor

Shipp off base in his criticisms of UGA

Bill Shipp would have you think UGA went to heck in a handbasket while no one was looking! The only thing he left out was the latest Elvis sighting. That is, if you believe his purported quotes from an anonymous "expert on higher education." In a backhanded sort of way, Shipp probably thought he was helping UGA publicize its state funding needs by pointing out some shortcomings. But facts are facts:

Shipp says, "You should look at the grades of the pledges during fall quarter." We have. We monitor them regularly. Students who are members of fraternities consistently outperform non-fraternity students in grade-point average. In fall 2006, fraternity freshmen men posted a 3.04 average GPA compared to all freshmen men at 2.94.

The university has no record of a "middle-of-the-night fire drill." We've had some actual fire calls, and alarms have been pulled for some false ones, but those are not drills. Drills are regularly scheduled in each hall once per semester between noon and 8 p.m. and are announced to residents 24 hours in advance. The university's fire safety record is excellent. Eighty-eight percent of residence hall beds are now under sprinklers, including all four high-rises, with another 5 percent being added in renovations this summer and the remaining 7 percent in the planning stage.

From August to May, there have been no student complaints filed regarding rodents in the residence halls. Russell Hall, which Shipp singled out, is the single most-requested hall among incoming freshmen and usually has a waiting list. The university's annual assessment through an outside consultant measuring student satisfaction shows the great majority of those responding are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their campus living experience.

Plant maintenance at UGA is generally recognized as among the best around - the buildings are well-maintained, the grounds are lovely. In our most recent accreditation review, SACS commended the Physical Plant Division for maintenance of "beautiful campus grounds." Certainly we have need for maintenance and repair funding, but the place is not falling apart around the students' ears.

The university strictly enforces rules against student abuse of alcohol and other drugs and has zero tolerance for hazing. More student cases have been made for alcohol and other drugs in the past year than in any year in UGA history. Of 906 cases before Student Judicial Programs in the past year, 388 were alcohol- or other drug-related. Stricter enforcement leads to more cases.

The budgetary part of Shipp's column, which was drawn from actual university documents rather than an anonymous "expert," was more factual. In particular, the university's standing in faculty and staff salaries relative to our peers has slipped noticeably in recent years and needs to be addressed if UGA is to maintain competitiveness in the national and international higher education labor market.

Despite his apparent attempt to help, the picture Shipp painted of UGA's purportedly dire straits was over the edge and cannot be left to stand unchallenged.

Tom Jackson

Vice President for Public Affairs

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