Staff Editorial: Fee forums need more answers, less rhetoric
The first Tuition and Fee Forum, held Wednesday night, was a great opportunity for students and administrators to communicate on the costs of attending UH. Although we wish more students had attended – a Daily Cougar estimate puts the number at about 40 – it ended up as a fairly candid conversation about where student money goes and why.
Several students asked valuable questions about how their money is spent and what’s being done about the pressing issues they face, such as why students weren’t better informed about the tuition and fees process and what the University is doing to financially assist students who don’t fall in the lowest and highest economic brackets.
But as much as we appreciate the hard work the Student Government Association representatives on the panel put into serving on the Tuition and Fees Review Committee and participating in the forum, they should have let more students in the audience do the talking.
During an approximately 45-minute question and answer session at the end of the forum, the SGA representatives on the panel did more talking than anyone else, and only five of the students present from the general campus had time to ask questions.
By dominating the discussion, the student panel members had two effects: they kept the number of general students participating low and they let the administrators on the forum off the hook. Rather than allowing administrators to answer some of the tough questions about what’s being done to increase financial aid or why housing is so expensive, the SGA representatives pushed their own rhetoric about improving the University. For several questions, the students got no answer at all – only the SGA representatives’ opinion about their question.
These important inquiries must not be misdirected, glossed over or generalized. They must be answered, and this can only happen if the rhetoric is kept to a minimum and students have their questions heard and fully answered by the people who have the information to do so.
Although the student panel members are well-informed about the processes that went into determining the proposed tuition and fees, some of the questions they took upon themselves to answer would have been better addressed by University administrators who could have been pressed for specifics.
The SGA representatives have had a positive impact on this process and did make several helpful and insightful remarks answering students’ questions. However, Tuition and Fee Forums are not the place to simply rehash the University’s problems, but rather they are the place to pinpoint what, if anything, is being done to correct them.