Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Students should pay more attention UNH's fiscal problems

Over the summer I wrote down a short list of generalizations I had about the UNH student body, including myself. I did this because going into my senior year I wanted to pay more attention to the news and the happenings of the university system, especially due to the budget crisis. I wanted to look at what types of things the student body, including myself were passionate about and what things we shrugged off. We are now about a quarter of the way through the year and I thought it might be appropriate to revisit a few items on that list I wrote down.

I went on record last year saying many times that I believe our student body is far too inactive and passive. The evidence I used for those claims were the lack of votes cast in the Student Body Elections and the fact that students rarely truly stand up for what they believe in here. UNH is one the most expensive publics schools for instate tuition in the country. To be exact, we were number ranked fourth before the most recent tuition hike. But never once has there ever been any type of organized student attempt to challenge the hikes.

When state officials in Concord cut the budget by 45 to 50% we sat back and said “that sucks… where’s the party tonight?” I never did anything about it either, but I wish I did. That is why I met with housing over the apartment quiet hours issue. Sure, it is nowhere near the importance level of tuition or state funding, but at least it is a start and it is something that many students did actually care about.

So, to speak in extreme generalizations, if we don’t care about funding or tuition apart from a short conversation or editorial from time to time, what do the students care about? Well, this past few days provides some perfect examples. We care about SCOPE and their choice of concerts and hockey. Which to me is perfectly fine. We’re in college and want to see our favorite forms of entertainment, especially when other schools are getting famous artists and we want our teams to do well. I’m as big of a UNH hockey fan as there is. Check out SCOPE’s facebook wall after their shows were announced. An outpouring of truly hateful and disrespectful comments for one show and then mass approval for the next, with a few comments in the reverse direction as well.

The line for tickets to the UNH-Maine hockey team was over 200 students at 4:30 am Monday morning and all the student tickets were gone around 7:30, just a half-hour after the box office opened. I think that is fantastic and I would have been there with them if I weren’t battling off a cold. But it drives me to ask is: where is that kind of support or passion for the actual school that is being torn apart by our state representatives in Concord?

UNH is in panic mode right now. The state slashed our budget, meanwhile we’re trying to build a $50 million business school and our professors want higher salaries. Usually, I would side with the professors but at this time they are demanding a 16% salary increase over the next four years and have only agreed to a fraction of the benefit changes offered by the administration. President Huddleston sent out a statement saying that the AAUP and UNH are at in impasse and a mediator will have to be brought in to finish the process. At this time is it really sustainable for the faculty to have such strong demands when the university has faced such huge budget cuts?

Personally, I blame Concord for the whole situation. UNH has a great faculty and they produce some fantastic and groundbreaking research, but due to the budget cuts there is no money available to give. Annual salaries increases are very common, this isn’t a situation unique to UNH, but due to the decisions made in Concord it has become a much more drastic situation.

This is an issue that students should care about because it could cause some major changes with how this school and the entire University System of New Hampshire is operated. The privatization of UNH could very well happen in the near future. While that has pros and cons in both directions, it could drastically influence the curriculum, hiring and application processes.

Stay classy, not UMassy

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