Student Support Overview

The University of Chicago has a robust set of systems and practices that support and care for our students and members of the University community. Our intention is to create an environment where all can learn and contribute to the creation of knowledge. The University seeks to engage and support students while respecting each student’s independence. Although students are trusted to manage their own affairs, including decisions related to academics, financial concerns and personal issues, they have access to extensive University resources and mentors to help with these issues. In addition to providing daily support and engagement, the University also responds quickly when a student needs help.

Daily Life

Housing

College Housing at UChicago is composed of 38 undergraduate Houses, each serving as a “home base” for students. A House consists of an average of seventy students sharing a cluster of dorm rooms and common areas within the residential commons. Each House has its own traditions, its own House Council, and its own Resident Head and Resident Assistant. Each House also has its own designated “House Tables” in one of the residential dining commons, where House community members share meals, engage in academic debate, and socialize with friends. Weekly House meetings and active House Councils bring students together for cultural activities, fundraising, intramural sports, and activities around the city. First-year college students are required to live in college housing, and can opt-in the following years.

The Houses are supported by three levels of resident staff who are active members of the community, in contact with students through formal activities and informal daily routines. All resident staff receive training throughout the year, including a five-day orientation for new staff, a two-day session for returning staff in the fall, and quarterly in-service meetings. Topics covered range from familiarizing staff with University-wide resources and best practices to recognizing the signs of psychological or medical emergencies and the appropriate responses.

  • Resident Heads are advanced graduate students or University administrative staff, most with families, who reside in the houses. They open their homes to House meetings, host study breaks and are available at all hours of the day to assist students with routine matters as well as emergencies.
  • Resident Assistants are third- or fourth-year students who also live in each House.
  • Resident Masters reside in the six largest residential commons and are senior faculty members. They offer programming such as dinners with faculty guests and outings to the city in order to develop hall-wide affinity and relationships between faculty and students.

According to a recent survey, more than half of all graduate and professional school students respondents choose to live near campus, with 15% residing in University-owned housing and 40% living in Hyde Park in non-University-owned housing. University-owned graduate housing is made up of about 1,300 units in 28 buildings, and all graduate students who are enrolled full-time are eligible to request housing.

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Academics

The University offers a 6:1 ratio of students to faculty, and almost 80% of classes have fewer than 20 students. The University encourages contact outside of the classroom through office hours, organized activities and events. Faculty are told to contact an adviser whenever there are concerns about unusual or disruptive behavior in a course.

Every undergraduate student is assigned a full-time, professional College adviser with whom they meet throughout their four years on campus. They are required to meet at least three times in their first year and once per year thereafter, although most meet with their adviser more frequently.

While the primary responsibility of advisers is to help students design an appropriate program of study, advisers also support students in postgraduate planning and assist in the resolution of personal, financial, or academic problems. There is also an Adviser-on-Call program for urgent academic issues.

Over the 2011-12 academic year, the College Advising staff conducted more than 7,250 conferences with students. In addition to the required conferences, College Advisers have more than 25,000 student contacts in a typical year – including meetings, e-mails and phone calls.

Students also receive support from their Area Deans of Students, who are touch points for a number of academic and related needs. On a daily basis, a Dean of Students may review students’ academic progress, counsel students with financial difficulties, work with the financial aid and bursar’s offices on a student’s behalf, and partner with Student Disability Services, College Housing and Student Health and Counseling Services on supporting student needs.

Each department has a Director of Graduate Studies and a Graduate Program Administrator (GPA) who work with graduate students on various aspects of their studies including advising on research or assisting with administrative tasks as requested by the student. Beginning this year, all GPAs were offered the opportunity to attend training on recognizing students in distress, a program co-sponsored by Graduate Student Affairs and Student Counseling Services.

Doctoral students often develop mentoring relationships with faculty members in their areas of study. Those individuals, particularly dissertation directors and other members of their committees, are sources for academic, professional, and personal guidance.

While federal privacy laws limit information the University may release about a student, even to parents, parents are contacted if there is a significant threat to the health or safety of a student. Deans, for example, regularly contact parents when a student is hospitalized. Parents are welcome to share relevant information and concerns with academic advisers, housing staff, deans of students and other University officials. Staff will use that information to coordinate appropriate outreach and support for the student.

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Programming

College and graduate students have a wide array of activities to choose from. With more than 400 recognized student organizations (RSOs), ranging from a cappella groups to the student newspaper, and 752 intramural sports teams, most students find a cause or group to join. The RSOs and intramurals sports teams are overseen by dedicated staff in the Physical Education and Athletics, Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Affairs, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, Spiritual Life, and the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Life, to name a few.

Last year there were 502 varsity athletes (10% of undergraduates), 5,800 intramural participants (40% of undergraduates and graduates), 1,000 sport clubs participants (includes students, faculty, staff, alumni and spouses) and 20,147 FitChicago attendees.

The graduate and professional schools also offer a variety of programming opportunities for students, ranging from purely social events to networking and content-focused presentations. In addition, Graduate Student Affairs acts as a one-stop shop for graduate students to access resources that support completing their degrees, enhance their professional preparations and connect them to social activities.

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Responsive Care

Well-being checks

While not a formalized program or process, if anyone – parent, instructor, staff, fellow student – becomes concerned about the well-being of a student, they may contact the student’s residential staff, the Dean-on-Call, or UChicago Police Department to ask for a well-being check. Resident Assistants provide ongoing contact on an informal basis, and when engaged, the Dean-on-Call and UChicago Police Department respond together to concerns.

Dean-on-Call (DOC) program

The Dean-on-Call program makes the one-on-one support and guidance of a University administrator available to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This collaborative effort of Campus and Student Life (CSL) and the University of Chicago Police Department provides referrals and support for students in distress, especially during a crisis. They can also fulfill requests for well-being checks.

The Sexual Assault Dean-on-Call (SADOC) is the University official specifically trained as a Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate through the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) and can provide emotional support and basic legal and medical information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Student Health Services (SHS)

Student Health Services provides general health care to University of Chicago students. SHS is staffed by University of Chicago Medical Center faculty physicians and nurse practitioners, as well as specialists in sports medicine, travel health, reproductive health, and health education. Nearly 80% of the student population (college and graduate) received treatment through SHS last year.

Student Counseling Services (SCS)

The Student Counseling Service provides mental health care to University of Chicago students and consultation to University officials who are concerned about a student. Care for students includes needs assessment, psychotherapy, psychiatric consultation, academic skills assessment program, support groups, referrals, and emergency services. Last year, 16% of the student population used SCS services.

Spiritual Life Office

The Spiritual Life Office provides support to members of the campus community of any religious background and also to those who seek spiritual life beyond traditional boundaries. It offers a variety of programming connected to spirituality and religion in today’s world and supports numerous student religious and spiritual organizations.

Violence Prevention Policy and Threat Assessment Team

The University’s Threat Assessment Team and Threat Assessment Hotline are available for anyone to share information about any individual who may be planning or be at risk of engaging in violence. The multidisciplinary team roster as well as the full policy are available online.

Drug and Alcohol Policy

This policy, published in Common Sense, outlines the standards of conduct at the University of Chicago for all members of the University community with regards to the consumption, possession, and sale of alcohol and other drugs. It also includes counseling, treatment and referral resources for students, faculty and employees who believe they may have a drug or alcohol problem. Students are encouraged to contact SCS, their area Dean of Students or Campus and Student Life. The complete policy can be accessed here.

Missing Student Policy

This policy, published in Common Sense, establishes notification procedures for students who reside in on-campus housing and are reported as missing for more than 24 hours. The complete policy can be accessed here.

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