September 26, 2018 | ° F

Christie may make or break budget at U.

The economy and the new state governor will play a crucial role in addressing students' concerns in transportation, study spaces and dining services, University President Richard L. McCormick said last night at the Rutgers University Student Assembly meeting.

"The tough economy has constrained resources available for everything," McCormick said. "[The new governor] confronts a very difficult budget situation. … Sadly, higher education will once again be liable to cuts in the year ahead."

He said he needs students' help advocating for the budget in the upcoming year.

"We want your help in Trenton to be the best we can do for higher education," McCormick said. "Sometimes a more proactive approach was successful, sometimes a more quiet stance is suitable, [and] we would welcome the chance to work with students in regards to state support."

Senior members of the University administration responded to students' concerns and viewed the "What's on Your Mind Month" results at the meeting in the Student Activities Center on the College Avenue campus.

"We're looking forward to working with [Governor-elect Chris] Christie on issues of higher education and support for our students," McCormick said. "I know he is deeply committed to the colleges of New Jersey and I know … he will be a good partner for Rutgers."

He said the new governor is facing some difficult choices in a constrained environment regarding the state budget funding for higher education, and there is a possibility for cuts.

"[How to deal with budget cuts] would depend on how big they are or what other revenue sources are available and what the options are at the time," McCormick said. "It's way too premature to speculate on how to deal with budget cuts — our goal is to increase our budget, not plan for cuts in the year ahead."

Internal Affairs Chair Josh Slavin, a Livingston College senior, asked how much the administration listens to the individual concerns of the students.

"We try very hard to be as responsive as possible to students needs; students are our largest constituents, the education of our students is the traditional mission of our students," Vice President of Academic Affairs Philip J. Furmanski said. "It may not seem like it is the case, but we try to be as responsive as possible."

Another issue was about the football stadium expansion, raised by University Affairs Chair Ben West.

"The entire thrust of the stadium is funded by bonds," McCormick said. "All of that service will be funded by revenue and we are on track. The bad economy made a relatively small dent in ticket sales … [and] 30 years is still a viable number for the amount of years it will take to pay it off."

Transportation, facilities and safety problems were the major issues brought up during the "What's on your Mind?" survey presentations.

"There are very common patterns in issues concerning transportation, the scarcity of buses on the weekends and the concerns about library hours that are common to each and every presentation," McCormick said. "There are issues that run through all the presentations and the administration has a responsibility to respond comprehensively."

The presentations were a part of a survey process initiated by the assembly and led by the individual councils that took place in October between all campuses. There were more than 1,500 students participating in the study between all councils.

Transportation was a central issue in the presentation of all campus and professional councils that presented. The average rate students responded to the survey was around 30 percent toward transportation as highest in importance.

"The more parking lots you build, the more your parking fees will build up. If we reduce parking tickets, then students may take risks with parking tickets, so it is an economic decision," Director of Department of Transportation Services Jack Molenaar said. "You have to weigh the consequences of each decision. … If I do change something like that, it may hurt more people than help."

Members of all councils said students want buses that cater to their own campuses.

While the SEBS/Cook Council presentation asked for more EE and F buses around various times, the Livingston Campus Council asked for more LX buses.

Complaints about facilities came from all campuses, ranging from classrooms to library hours. The most cited issue raised was about the lack of late library hours.

"I would be thrilled if the libraries were open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but the budget of the libraries get strained every year with the rising costs … every year," Furmanski said. "It may not be as interesting to [students] if libraries are not open at 9 a.m., but that they are open at 3 a.m., so we'll take a look at that."

The quality of food was another common factor across all New Brunswick campuses.

"It's not the food, it's the service," Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory S.  Blimling said. "The way it's set up on the weekends is that there are less students, so food stays out longer. We do have a systematic solution that will be completed in 2011."

Cagri Ozuturk

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