Over the past six months, I have heard many of my peers gripe and moan about how the administration is “screwing us over.” The meal plans are outrageous, limiting when and what students can purchase with club meals and requiring the Class of 2007 and all subsequent classes to have four-year meal plans, whether they live on or off campus. The parking isn’t any better. Students who park in Park Lot South and NSRL Parking Lot pay as much as students who park in Hill Court and Towers. Furthermore, tuition seems to be increasing every year with minimal explanation.
I have news for everybody. This university is a corporation. In fact, all private universities are corporations. They are in the business of education and we, the students, are the consumers. We sign a contract and pay a fee, and in return, we get a diploma and a college experience. As cold as this sounds, this is a key dynamic of university-student relationships throughout the country.
But what happens when the consumer becomes unhappy? Does the school have the responsibility to address our concerns publicly? I think so. Our relationship with the administration lacks the transparency that we desire.
Last year, our administration raised tuition by five percent, bringing the full cost of attending UR up to $38,000 – $9,000 above the national average of four-year, private universities. In a Campus Times article last year, Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Ronald Paprocki explained, “This year’s five percent increase in tuition is the result of a collective judgment call by The College, university administration and the trustees as to what would be an appropriate increase given the general economic climate, programmatic needs and budgetary conditions.”
The extra funds will help pay for improving services and programs so that the university can maintain its quality. Still, student input was neither included in the “collective judgment” nor were we privy to details. Paprocki’s entire explanation can be found in the CT of Mar. 18, 2004.
When the university raises tuition, we deserve more of an explanation than vague rhetoric. When a decision is made to require students to have meal plans for four years, we deserve to know why. Having sat on the Dining Committee for the past year, which includes ARAMARK and school officials, I have received very little explanation for these changes beyond “economic concerns.”
When I requested yearly revenue reports, I was informed that the school chooses not to release them – they don’t have to because they are a private corporation. Since we have little or no access to financial reports and other pertinent information, we are often left feeling swindled even if this is not the case.
Many students are feeling more and more frustrated by the little information we receive on school policy. Still, I find that people do not seem to want to do anything about these issues besides complain to each other. Perhaps this is because we feel helpless. As a result of our university’s administrative structure, we are so distant from the upper echelon of administrators that we don’t even know from where the decisions are coming. The problems are neither horrendous enough to motivate most of us to transfer nor unique to UR. So the only apparent option is to deal with the situation. Or is it?
The Students’ Association government functions as the voice of the undergraduate community. We are here to represent you. However, we are unable to represent the student body if they do not want to represent themselves. Come to senate meetings on Monday nights at 9 p.m. in the Gowen Room and tell us how you feel. E-mail SA President Pete Nabozny and offer suggestions. Better yet, e-mail President Jackson and voice your complaints. Write letters to the Parents’ Association – it is their money, after all. We must stand up as one undergraduate community and voice our frustration with university policy and their lack of transparency.
The opportunity is there for students to stand up for themselves. The question is, “Will they take it?”
Ladon can be reached at email@example.com.