Peder Aalgaard | Staff Writer | 02/09/2011
The BSU Student Association held a student-only recalibration discussion on February 2 open to all students in place of their regular weekly meeting.
The goal of the discussion was to allow students to have the chance to talk with the BSUSA and come up with possible solutions to deal with cuts being made to the University.
Co-President Michael Meehlhause started the discussion by explaining that the purpose of the BSUSA was to act as the “voice of the students.” He also made a point to remind all who attended the discussion that the budget problem was plaguing the entire state of Minnesota, not just Bemidji State. This has resulted in the infamous $5 million budget cut, or 10 percent of the original budget.
The recalibration plan has not just been about cuts. With the loss of Art History, Theatre, Massage Therapy and Environmental Landscaping programs, the University has also added positions to Mass Communication, Business, and Native American and Ojibwe Studies. The other part of recalibration has involved reducing certain areas. Faculty members have taken advantage of early retirement incentives, many contracts will not be renewed, and empty positions not filled. College deans have been working to find out what majors and minors will be continued in the following years.
Meehlhause said the main goal of the discussion was simple: “What we’re doing here today is a chance to discuss ‘What do we do? How do we go forward?’ Maybe this program is being cut. What are some innovative ways to keep it? We’re looking for ideas. How do we respond to the administration? Or how do we let them know about these cuts or recalibration as a whole?”
The members of the Student Association were dispersed amongst the students, giving information when they could and writing down the discussed suggestions. Each table was busy with ideas. The heaviest interest fell in sports, cut courses, reduced programs, and the desire to help.
One of the first suggestions made was to look at the sports teams funded by the university. In light of Title IX and the male to female athlete ratio at BSU, some ideas were to sign over clubs as sports, such as women’s rugby, to level the ratio. Another suggestion was to re-roster male teams that have extra players, resulting in the same effect.
Looking at the administration was also mentioned. BSU has one of the highest ratios of administration to faculty, said one student. However, according to BSUSA, President Hanson has said that administration members are ‘stretched thin.’ Depending on the date, reducing administrative positions may be worth looking into as a source of funding.
After hearing suggestions about how to pursue the changes to BSU and NTC, the Student Association compiled the information to present to the president. Ideas on recalibration were to give alumni a reason to visit and donate to the school. Other suggestions included: students paying fees directly into their department’s fund instead of automatically allocated fees; keeping as much variety as possible to courses to maintain a well-rounded education that keeps students marketable and broad-minded; and charging each student a small fee for normally free events.
Aside from the schools’ courses, students looked at the BSU’s cancellation of the contract with Paul Bunyan Transit at the end of the year. BSUSA requested that a frequent user card be issued to students that rely on the bus as a main mode of transportation. The idea of a reduced fee for students was also suggested.
Students who attended the discussion found it interesting and had hopes for their suggestions to become realities. Student Samantha Peter attended out of curiosity rather than out of a need to defend one of the cut programs. She was surprised how everything seemed to be taken into account during the discussion.
“At first I didn’t think we made much progress at all, because we were just chatting,” said Peter. “But then I noticed that the senator was taking notes and I thought ‘Oh my gosh, things we say are actually going to be suggested.’ So we did come up with a few good ideas, some that I hope are actually taken into consideration.”
While she was not sure how much influence the Student Association had, Peter hoped the discussion would do some good.
“I think it would be a good idea to hold another one of these,” she said, “but first, tell the students what we accomplished here. That may encourage more people to attend.”
Before the end of the discussion, Meehlhause suggested that students attend Rally Day on February 16 in St. Paul. The event will be an opportunity to take demands to the capital and to let legislaters know what students want for their education. Contact student senator Gabe Wakonabo for information about joining the trip.