Peterson reflects on past year, campus issues

Photo by John Nakano

With the academic year drawing to a close, the Technique sat down with President G.P. “Bud” Peterson to talk about some of the big issues on campus.

One such issue was mental health. “On mental health, we have caught up on the wait list,” Peterson said, referring to the delay students had been experiencing when trying to talk with someone at the Counseling Center.

Since last year, Tech has filled four vacant positions and hired people for two additional positions. According to Peterson, two more will be added before the start of the Fall semester.

A big part of Tech’s plan for mental health was the announcement of the Center for Campus Health and Wellbeing which would provide a single point for health and wellbeing–related programming.

“The director search is still underway… . We’ve got a pretty good pool already and should have interviews starting in several weeks, maybe a month, four to six weeks. Our real goal is to have somebody in here this summer and have the Wellness Initiative, the Director here and in place and knowing what they’re doing by the time students return in the Fall.”

Another part of the Wellness Initiative was sexual violence.

“We’re going to have some online education going on, so [Burns Newsome, Director of Compliance for Title IX] is leading the Title IX sexual violence task force and it’s a new position we’ve essentially created to address some of those issues,” Peterson said.

A victim advocate will be hired as part of the sexual violence prevention initiative.

“So that has been handled by the Women’s Resource Center, but we’re transferring that responsibility from the Wellness Initiative to Health Promotions,” Peterson said. “That search is underway and we expect to interview folks in the next couple weeks on that, and we’ll hire someone as soon as we can.”

Peterson also spoke on the Georgia-wide tobacco ban that was implemented at Tech starting last October. According to Peterson, the most important thing was that students and faculty were on board with the policy.

“Prohibition didn’t work because people didn’t believe in the rule of law, and so many people were violating prohibition that it just didn’t work, and I didn’t want to be in that situation,” Peterson said. “The Regents took a very proactive, universal approach and then we worked, I think, proactively with the student leadership and the faculty leadership to try and do this in a major way.”

Another major issue was the perceived decline in teaching quality. According to the Student Experience Survey Data, the undergraduate’s rating for “Quality of Teaching” went down 4 percent since 2009.

“I think it’s an ongoing effort,” Peterson said. “I think the QEP serve•learn•sustain will help along those lines. We are looking at increasing the resources available for academic advising through the budget process … .”

The Technique asked Peterson what he felt were the three most important Tech initiatives.

“This wellness initiative: the mental health task force, the sexual violence task force, and the wellness initiative: those three are all rolled into one major topic,” Peterson said. “That’s been a big initiative for us, something that’s been very important and will help to shape the campus for many years to come.”

Peterson also mentioned the High Performance Computing Facility being planned for Tech Square, and the planning of the Library renovation.

According to Lynn Durham, Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff to the President, another big initiative for Tech this year was philanthropy.

“We’ve already reached our 1.5 billion dollar goal,” Durham said. “We’ve already surpassed it, which is fantastic, but even though we’ve overall surpassed the goal, there are lots of units that haven’t met their individual goals… .”