Student involvement needed

Although Tuesday’s public forum on proposed changes to the University’s budget was packed with students (so much so that it had to be relocated from the Barkley Room of the Curris Center to the Curris Center theater), we can’t help but conclude that students were not consulted anywhere near as much as they should have been in the University’s budget review process.

The proposals for increased savings for fiscal year 2013-2014 include reducing housing scholarships by $80,000 a year for three years, doubling the amount of parking fines for on campus violations, introducing $1 an hour gated parking at the Curris Center, leaving only one full-time staff member to advise Greek Affairs, Student Government Association and student organizations and reducing non-federal, non-grant student work accounts by 10 percent, among those 83 proposals presented by the budget planning and review teams.

A review process that produces proposals such as these begs the question as to how many students actually want to pay to park in our own student center when parking there is already limited to an hour or devoted mostly to visitors to the University, among other questions such as how many students are willing to give up their jobs in the name of belt tightening and how many students want to see housing scholarships reduced by $80,000 per year.

These certainly don’t sound like proposals that students would be very supportive of, or even propose in the first place, for that matter.

What’s more is that President Randy Dunn didn’t seem to have all the answers at Tuesday’s public forum on the budget. When asked how many students might not be returning to Murray State because of the proposal to reduce housing scholarships, Dunn said, “We don’t know if it would prevent students from coming back.”

With such large cuts to housing scholarships, on which so many at this University rely, we wonder why the number of students (and thus, tuition) that would be lost from such a move was not studied by the administration before the proposal was made.

One of the larger savings proposals made by the budget teams included on a preliminary draft says that 10 percent of annual carry forwards for each Vice President Area will be retained centrally for record keeping and administration of funds.

A carry forward fund is like a bank account that allows funds not spent from previous years to accumulate and provide the basis of future funds for these areas. The proposals to retain 10 percent of those funds is a savings of $1.85 million.

Dunn noted the University is running a $2.3 million deficit. The proposed cuts total $5,160,380. Why so many cuts if the $2.3 million operating deficit could be solved by simply retaining more of the $18.5 million of the carry forward funds on which the University is now sitting?

The entirety of the proposed cuts and revenues could be eliminated if more funds were retained from the carry forward accounts.

Dunn said the 10 percent number was arbitrary and that the Board of Regents might consider discussing the amount retained and not limit it to the 10 percent proposed by the budget review teams.

One thing is for certain – if students want to be heard, they need to get involved. Students completely missed out on helping craft a budget that suited their needs, rather than target them as pocketbooks from which to extract more revenue.

A number of students made their disatissfaction public with budget proposal number 117, which leaves only one full-time staff member to advise Greek Affairs, SGA and student organizations.

For almost half an hour, these students voiced their concerns and made it known they had a bone to pick with the University over the budget.

If the Greeks, which compose only 12 percent of the student body, can make their voices heard, why can’t the other 88 percent of us stand up and ask the administration to hear us, too?

Why can’t we get organized and demand something be done?

Whether that means retaining more of the carry forward funds is beside the point. We can’t keep blaming the University for our shortcomings if we have ample opportunity to get loud and demand a different course of action.

The ball is in our court now. What we do with it is up to us and only us.

 The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.