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U. tuition hearing did not offer students fair speaking time

It may seem as if the issue of tuition does not directly correspond to the name of our group. After all, what is the relationship between tuition and shared governance? Exactly — there is none in existence at this school.

A single open hearing concerning the University’s budget is not enough to constitute a fair seat at the table for students. Beyond that, to speak at the hearing, students must register at least 24 hours beforehand and are only allotted two minutes of speaking time. How, in a mere two minutes, can someone sum up the way tuition increases cut the number of meals students can eat each week? How can one explain the burden it puts on their mental health? Or the impact it has on their schoolwork?

All of these stories and many other powerful ones were told at the hearing. Students bared the most intimate parts of their history to explain the difficulties of staying in school. But regardless of where someone was in their story, after two minutes they were asked to “conclude their comments” because their “allotted time (was) up.” This displays an outrageous degree of disconnect between University administrators and their students.

Along those lines, we would like to point out the administration’s attempt to splinter the University community through false commentary. It has been a major administrative talking point to pit student tuition hikes against raises for staff and faculty. Since November, President Barchi and administrators like Dick Edwards have assured the University community that they cannot guarantee an increase in faculty and staff salaries without raising student tuition. Time and again we have seen this directly contradicted. Staff and faculty have suffered intermittent freezes to their salaries over the last four years while student tuition has steadily increased by at least two percent a year.

We wonder why, instead of pitting student tuition against staff and faculty salaries, the money that President Barchi has been fundraising all year — a responsibility that has been deemed by his administration to be more important to the University than being present in many of the affairs here on campus ­— is not being allocated to ameliorate tuition and to guarantee faculty and staff the salaries they deserve.

If we truly had shared governance at this school, if students and staff alike were allotted the time that they deserved and if the administrators were ready to accept and respond to their concerns, these things would be taken into account. I am sad to report that this was not the case. Instead, this open hearing is designed to make the Board of Governors and the administration feel that they have done enough.

Therefore, I would like to pose the questions that remained after my two minutes were up: Do you realize that telling students or staff to stop speaking after two minutes is the same as telling them they don’t matter? How can this administration justify de-prioritizing current students? Finally, will you freeze our tuition?

Sivan Rosenthal is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double majoring in Middle Eastern studies and planning and public policy. All members of RU Shared Governence contributed to the writing of this letter. 

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