Staff editorial: Secrecy surrounding tuition committee sows mistrust

The Tuition and Fees Review Committee has the legal right to close its doors to the public. It has the legal right to hide its priorities and keep students in the dark about how high their tuition and fees will be next year and why. The committee has the legal right to do a lot of things.

However, ethically, University administrators should think long and hard about their decision to close the committee’s meetings last week to Daily Cougar reporters (see story, Page 1).

Students have swallowed tuition increase after tuition increase in the aftermath of state tuition deregulation. They understand the reasons administrators and regents give every year for the raises. They believe the money they shell out each semester will build a better school, a better campus and better degrees.

But if administrators continue to censor information about how and why tuition and fees go up every year, doubt will begin to creep in. It has already begun. We can see it in this year’s flat enrollment. We can hear it in conversations around cafeteria tables and in library study rooms – talk of second jobs, loans and transfers.

If administrators expect students to continue to pay the University’s way to flagship status, they must include students in the process by informing them. The Daily Cougar is happy to provide this service, free of charge. We’ve tried. But we must be allowed to do our jobs. Students have a right to know where their money will go.

Not every committee member agreed with the decision to close last week’s meetings, but they were closed nonetheless. Perhaps administrators think students will be confused by all the mathematical jargon and frightened by the words "proposal" and "recommendation." Perhaps they think students will panic. Perhaps they just don’t want students to know where their money will go before it’s too late to change anything.

Donald Foss, vice president of Academic Affairs, has promised The Daily Cougar an update Tuesday on the progress of the committee to run in Wednesday’s issue. We hope he makes good on his word. We hope we’re allowed to do our jobs. We hope students will have the opportunity to make informed opinions about this recommendation, which will affect them more than anyone.

It’s unfortunate that we have to hope. It’s unfortunate we can’t be certain.

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