Questions for a President
One of the questions submitted for the presidential candidates was “Do you believe that levying fees upon the students to prop up financially failing programs (the UAF sports program for example) is fair to students? Why or why not?”
More than two years after UAF’s athletic fee was initiated, students and staff are still complaining about the decision and the lack of input we had when it was made.
I don’t blame President Mark Hamilton for the fee. It seemed like it was the idea of then-Chancellor Steve Jones. And I’ve always assumed that his resignation six months later (to spend more time with his family outside) was at least partially related to the plummet in popularity he experienced after ignoring student input.
I think asking the presidential candidates about fees is a good idea. I’m also curious if a library fee is in the works, now that its budget doesn’t include funds for books.
More importantly than fees, I think the candidates need to be asked about transparency. Will the candidates value student input at every level? Perhaps the best sign of that is how they treat the student questions next week. Will they answer them or brush them off?
But another measurement of how things will play out here is what happens in Hawaii this spring. A brief on the Inside Higher Education website mentioned that the University of Hawaii is facing a deficit in their athletics budget. A link to the full story, which ran last week in the Honolulu Advertiser, said an $8 million deficit accumulated over the last decade. In 2002, the athletics department faced a deficit of about $296,000. It is expected to reach $10 million this year.
According to the article, the gap between revenue and expenditures is the result of declining ticket sales and increased costs, not unlike the budget situation that prompted UAF to impose an athletic fee. A $50 athletic fee is one of the ideas mentioned to help solve their problem. I hope they have the sense to ask students about it – or at least to have a really good P.R. campaign about why it’s important and pretend to listen to student feedback beforehand.
Whether or not U of H listens to students may fuel our whining or bond us to their students because we have the same things to complain about. Trends matter in higher education. University administrators meet to talk about their jobs at national conferences because not many people in their state have quite the same task. Hawaii’s choice will eventually impact the rest of the west coast. I hope they learn from UAF’s mistake. It means UAF might learn from it too.
And if they decide to have students bail them out, I hope they at least pay for a sweet intro for one of their sports. UAF has dibs on redeeming the fee with a polar bear that blows up the world. Maybe they can go for a coconut-bomb lobbed at the ocean?
How’s that for a question for the presidential candidates? If you could create another hockey intro, what would it be?