Drake addresses Council of Graduate Students
Funding, campus safety and professional development were among the topics of interest when Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake spoke to graduate students last week.
Drake was the guest of the Council of Graduate Students December delegate meeting on Friday. The council is the official branch of student government that represents every graduate student at Ohio State.
“Graduate students are an essential part of the power and effectiveness of America’s research universities and thus an essential and critically important part of what we do here,” he said.
Drake’s conversation with the students highlighted some of the successes in the year since the university’s Campus Conversation on Graduate Education report was released. The report focused on the top three issues facing graduate students: diversity and inclusion, professional development and funding.
Drake said continuing to recruit and develop a diverse graduate student body has been a challenge since he was a student. He said to aid the effort, the graduate school hired a director of diversity and inclusion to spearhead recruitment and student support.
For professional development, Drake pointed to the university’s new teaching support program for faculty.
“The plan is for there to be a graduate student-focused opportunity for the fall of next year,” Drake said.
The current program is an optional professional development opportunity for teaching faculty to analyze and improve their work in the classroom. The program features a monetary incentive to boost the pay of the faculty who enroll.
Graduate students are an essential part of the power and effectiveness of America’s research universities and thus an essential and critically important part of what we do here.
Drake said the Ohio State Energy Partners initiatives have increased funding for endowed fellowships. He noted minimum graduate associate stipends are in the top tier of the Big Ten.
Drake was asked about improving the university’s mental health services. He updated students on the findings of the Suicide and Mental Health Task Force he commissioned in response to important dialogue on campus that took place last spring about Ohio State’s suicide prevention efforts and mental health services.
“We care very much about this as an institution,” he said.
The university is in the process of hiring additional mental health counselors and developing tools like a smartphone app to help students find all of the services offered at Ohio State.
Khaled Altabtbaei, an oral biology PhD student, expressed concern at the tone of the university’s new sexual misconduct training program. He said he was concerned the character animations used in the program could be seen as “infantilizing” a serious issue.
Drake said the program was constructed according to trauma-informed practices to prevent anyone on campus who is a survivor of sexual misconduct from becoming traumatized while undergoing the training.
“One of the tenets of that is to simplify things in a way that allows you to take a step back,” Drake said.
Finally, one student asked about a series of armed robberies near the campus area. Drake said the university has increased the number of police on campus by 8 percent recently and is working with the city of Columbus to install more security cameras in off-campus neighborhoods.
“This is your home. It’s where you work and it’s where we all live. It’s of paramount importance to make it as safe as possible,” he said.