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Letter to the Editor

02/09/2011

Fellow Students,

It’s time for our voices to be heard.  The president is offering five office hours this month.  With a time limit of 15 minutes per meeting, 20 of us will get a chance to have our voices heard. That’s a whopping 0.3 percent of the student population.  We can vote for president and fight in a war, but we can’t have a real say in how Bemidji State University spends our money?

However, we shouldn’t be upset about the lack of face to face interaction with the people who are determining the way in which our tuition dollars are spent.  We have already received representation in the form of the 14 students selected to be a part of the President’s Student Commission, nominated by faculty and staff.

In addition, the administration was careful to consider “a full range of data,” “demographic shifts affecting our region,” and was “keenly mindful of the impact decisions would have on students.” What more do we need to hear?  Although professors have been cut and students are concerned about how they will be able to finish, say, a BFA in art without art history, they don’t need to worry.  We’ve been assured that everything will be fine.  Those making the cuts don’t

need to develop plans to ensure graduation; the university has to teach everyone out to remain accredited, so the deans can figure it all out. We should feel comforted.

In addition, these cuts will be good for the university in the long term.  They’re going to increase retention, since students have been leaving the university because they’re upset about having too many professors and a track team.  When asked why 70 percent of the cuts were from academics the president said that’s where the resources are.  Well, I should hope so. This is a university. The resources should be in academics and that’s where they should stay.

We are not data.  We are not demographics.  We are people, and no set of numbers and statistics can represent what we want and need from a university.  Write e-mails.  Write letters.  Tell the president and the vice presidents who you are and what’s important to you.   We need to

talk to administration.  We need to talk to faculty.  We need to talk to the community.  We need to talk to each other.  It’s time to express our opinions in a meaningful way.

A university is not a mall food court.  If one part of it isn’t performing economically that doesn’t mean it should be cut out.  We all rely on each other and our disciplines interact and build each other up.  When we cut math, it hurts our sciences.  When we cut history and English it takes away our ability to contextualize and understand in other disciplines.  When we cut our track team we don’t just lose athletes, we lose valuable students who will bring pride to our university both while they’re here and after they graduate and enter the job market.

When we lose visual arts, music, and theater, we lose strong ties to the community.  The arts enrich the community, and through them the community supports the university.  But they don’t produce guaranteed employment, so what value are they?

When our academic futures depends only on the “sustainability, innovativeness, and distinctiveness” of our programs, when it depends only on the employability statistics of our majors, we are reduced from human beings to products produced by the university to be purchased by government and industry.  Despite the university’s need for money, higher education can’t be run like a business without devaluing the basic ideals it stands for.

More than anything, though, we need to talk to the people who put our school in this budget crisis, the state legislature.  Public funding for state universities is what allows us, the working and middle classes, to compete educationally with those wealthy enough to afford private education.  The cutting of funding can only result in the cheapening of our educations or an increase in the already massive debt many, if not most of us, will be saddled with when we leave this university.

Maybe there is still something we can do about these cuts, maybe not, but unless we change the policy the state is taking toward education there will be more cuts in the future, and our little brothers and sisters, our younger cousins, and even our children might find higher

education beyond their reach.

I’ll end by imploring you, once more, to start making your voice heard.  Write your congressman, e-mail Dr. Hanson, talk to people in your dormitory, call alumni you know, and tell your friends and employers in the community.  Don’t let them patronize us and treat us like children.  We are adults and we know what’s best for us.

 

Sincerely,

Zach Olson