The University’s Real Image Problem

daniel-piscoya-1BY DANIEL PISCOYA
Managing Editor, UAS Whalesong

According to the FY2017 Approved Operating and Capital Budgets, I have seen the University raise tuition by over 12% (Appendix B) since I arrived in Fall 2013, and then request an additional 5% increase in the FY2018 Operating and Capital Budget Requests.

As made clear in the titles of the documents above, the University’s Operating Budget (programs, staff salaries, tuition) and its Capital Budget (renovations and campus signs) are two very separate things. An increase in one does not necessarily offset the other.

However, while this fact may seem obvious and integral for someone who works with the University system’s budget, it is not easily accessible or understandable to the average student. In order to provide the statistics I have cited, I had to comb through two official budget documents – an undertaking that made my five hour shift into an eight hour shift.

Now I’m not only enlightened and tired, but also worried. A comparable slough of information makes up the University’s Strategic Pathways – the future of the University for us and those who come after us.

It seems to me that, although my previous letter from the editor was wrong to assert that renovations ought to take a backseat to program funding, it might have been an easy mistake to make.

The University’s real image problem isn’t whether or not the budgets pay for renovations before programs, but that it’s certainly easier to think so than to sift through the actual plans.

In a state and national culture in which many very complex changes are occurring, clarity is the name of the game when it comes to rhetoric. It is quite possible our current President of the United States won his office based on the simplicity of his statements alone – for good or ill.

I would guess that Strategic Pathways presents such a hurdle that the average student hasn’t even looked into it. This is worrying not only because it creates a divide between students and the university, but also because it isn’t going to change unless students can grow a longer attention span (or simply more time), or the University begins to engage students in its plan for our future – to project its grand image to us for better or worse.

Perhaps then we can more fully participate.

Feel free to contact Daniel Piscoya at dlpiscoya@alaska.edu or at the Whalesong e-mail: uas.whalesong@alaska.edu.

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