This letter is in direct response to the Board of Trustees’ vote held on January 23, 2015, and a statement made by administration afterwards that student government leaders were not in attendance at the Budget Planning Council meeting when the vote was held in favor of the tuition increase.
In my monthly meeting with President McDavis and Provost Benoit on October 15, I stated in the clearest possible language that for over three decades, the tuition rates at Ohio University have increased four times faster than the Consumer Price Index, meaning that students working their way through college today can only work off one fourth of the tuition costs their parents could. When I asked what his office could do to help lower student loan debt, President McDavis replied, “Happy to take a look at it.” Wanting something more concrete, I asked when I should follow up and how student government could play a role in the examination. McDavis replied, “Well… a group of administrators will first have a conversation, and then if we think it’s necessary to bring you in, we will.” No such conversation with student government ever occurred.
At the same time, all of the Budget Planning Council meetings for Fall term had been originally scheduled for alternating Fridays, when its members had the fewest scheduling conflicts (my busiest day of the week was Wednesday, with five hours of graduate seminars). Because I had no classes scheduled for Fridays, I attended every meeting up to and including the meeting on Friday, November 7. At this meeting, I was critical of the administration and challenged whether the data methods used in the Comp2014 program were genuinely equitable for women. My comments were not well received.
Following this meeting and my criticism, the next two meetings were rescheduled for Wednesdays (when I had the most scheduling conflicts), and during the meeting on Wednesday, November 19, I could not be excused from class because I had to deliver a final project presentation to my class (an analysis of university parking permit data), which was worth the majority of my course grade. The final meeting of the term, originally scheduled for Friday, December 5, was rescheduled to Monday, December 8 – the Budget Planning Council vote was conducted on this day at 5:00PM, while I was in Bentley Hall completing one of my final exams. However, had I been at the meeting, the administrators definitely would have received an ear full and at least one vote against tuition hikes – they were already well aware of my position.
That the administration did not receive any concerns about tuition increases from student leaders on Budget Planning Council is no doubt the truth. However the whole truth would also include that administrators caused several short notice scheduling conflicts for certain members that conveniently coincided with the meetings leading up to the Budget Planning Council vote on tuition increases. What I call administrative strategic scheduling conflicts. The whole truth would include some other necessary facts as well: Early in the term, Megan Marzec realized her time was divided, and arranged for a proxy from Student Senate to attend and vote in her place on Budget Planning Council; however, Stephen Golding and Pamela Benoit, co-chairs of the Budget Planning Council, denied her proxy the right to attend or vote in her place.
The whole truth is that the administration thinks that students are lazy, risky, self-serving, and incompetent – that we are incapable of understanding finance, policy, administration – and that we would absolutely run this school into the ground if they allowed us to gain any real legal decision making power. To this end, despite being the majority stakeholders in most policy and the majority of the university community itself, students receive the absolute fewest positions on the Budget Planning Council, and even still, we have to deal with administrative strategic scheduling conflicts and denied proxies when our views on tuition hikes differ with administration. That’s the whole truth.
Carl Edward Smith III