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Student Senate seeking fair tuition

Apr. 30, 2013 @ 10:34 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Marshall University Student Senate approved a resolution Monday night that clears up some misinformation about the departmental revenue sweeps and budgetary issues, encourages the university community to move forward and requests that any tuition and fee increases be reasonable.

The two-page resolution also details what's happened on campus since April 9, when the administration authorized a sweep of all departmental revenue accounts, which led to an outcry from deans, faculty and staff. President Stephen Kopp apologized a week later, then encouraged the board of governors to table new budget parameters during the April 18 meeting in an effort to rebuild trust on campus.

However, the faculty senate met the following day to propose a resolution for a vote of no confidence. The non-binding vote started April 24 and ends Tuesday, April 30. The vote was scheduled to begin May 1, but was moved up last week. Results could come Wednesday, following the general faculty meeting on Tuesday, April 30.

Outgoing student body president Ray Harrell, along with E.J. Hassan, the incoming student body president, and Adam Fridley, the chief of staff for the Student Government Association, said it was important for the Student Senate to take a stance and be the voice for the 14,000 other students at Marshall.

"The students did not seem to be the main part of the conversation (at the Faculty Senate meeting), and that was something we were very disappointed about," Hassan said, noting that students were not allowed to speak.

But getting the resolution passed wasn't without a fight. One of the sections encouraged faculty to spend class time on things that pertain to the syllabus, after several reports of faculty members encouraging students to protest the administration.

That language led to a long debate about whether faculty members could or should use class time to discuss the budget situation. Several students said even though some the information faculty shared may have been false, it at least made students aware there were major issues going on. Others said it is about instructors using class time to gain student support rather than going through the Faculty Senate.

"We represent 14,000 students whose sole purpose is to receive an education," Hassan said.

The amendment failed and the language remained. And Harrell reminded the senate that the resolution's purpose is on "how to protect students from elaborate (tuition) increases."

He also reiterated why all of this has come to pass: continued funding decreases at the state level, including a $5.11 million cut in the upcoming 2013-2014 budget. Fridley, who spoke at the Senate Education Committee toward the end of the recent legislative session, said it's a nationwide crisis that has led to a shifting of costs the state to students and families.

Also part of the discussion is the formation of a budget working group that Harrell will serve on with members of the administration, faculty, staff and dean's council.

The group is expected to start meeting later this week, with two deadlines looming. The first comes in about two weeks, when Marshall's tuition and fee schedule must be submitted to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. The board will meet May 9 to vote on that. Then, the budget is due to the state by the middle of June, and the board will be voting on that at its June 11 meeting.

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