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Cooperation is needed for solving MU budget issues

Jun. 10, 2013 @ 12:15 AM

As many Herald-Dispatch readers across the Tri-State area may have seen, a column was written by Chuck Landon titled "Reminder to Herd faculty: Athletics put MU on map" and published on June 2.

It was written in response to a few members of the Marshall faculty raising questions as to the amount of university resources allocated to Marshall's Department of Athletics. As the student body president of Marshall University, a current member of the Budget Work Group and an incoming Board of Governors representative, I would like to offer my remarks and provide supplemental information to some of his points.

As a member of the Huntington area since 2001, Herd athletics hold a very substantial place in my heart. I am proud to have been part of the Marshall community for so many incredible stories of heroics in Herd sports, and I look forward to the continued success of our athletic teams and our student-athletes who make up a fantastic group of Sons and Daughters of Marshall.

I also recognize the meaning of the tragic events which took place on Nov. 14, 1970, and the progress that our football program as well as our university has made since that fateful day. I speak with great pride knowing that we have a story unlike any other university, and I attempt to serve our university with the same passion as that of the Young Thundering Herd.

Landon, in his column, indicates that over the past couple of weeks the faculty at Marshall University has become "dissident" toward administration and the Board of Governors for the sole reason of earning a raise in salary. He claimed in doing so the members of the faculty disregarded all other parties and acted in a "selfish" manner. Unfortunately, as what often happens in a debate between university constituencies, there is a critical component that is removed from the equation, the main constituency that truly puts a university on the map, the students.

As members of our university community and the great state of West Virginia know, higher education in West Virginia received a substantial cut in state allocations; cuts that have been referred to as gradual and continuous, and cuts which threaten our university in all facets of its operations. The easy option for members of the faculty, administration and staff would be to pass on this financial burden to the students by a dramatic raise in tuition costs, making it more of a challenge for young people to realize their potential by receiving a college education. However, the decision-makers of our great university chose not to take that path. They followed the example of our community in the 1970s and beyond and unified in order to realize success and ensure that our 14,000 students can receive a quality education at an affordable rate.

The actions taken by the faculty, administration, staff and students reflect the sentiment of Board of Governors Chairman Dr. Joseph B. Touma, who stated in an earlier board meeting that we must come together in order to achieve our goals. In response to that sentiment, a committee was created by the Office of President Stephen J. Kopp, titled the "Budget Work Group," which is comprised of members from all university constituencies, including the faculty and athletics, as well as students.

This group worked tirelessly to guarantee that all aspects of Marshall University's allocations were thoroughly examined so that our students could receive the quality education they deserve. One of the aspects of this review was that of the athletic department's allocation, and I commend Associate Athletic Director David Steele for his transparency and openness in the process.

However, one component that was examined more than most, and was regrettably not mentioned by the author of this column, was the Salary Enhancement Pool that was established several years prior to our budget crisis. This pool, designed to fund faculty raises that have been described in the column as the only concern of Marshall faculty, was cut nearly in half by the Budget Work Group, with no signs of dissent from the faculty representation on this group. The result of this examination led to a major break in tuition hikes. Undergraduate residents saw an increase of 4.82 percent, a number that is much lower than the 9-10 percent that was originally projected, and also lower than comparable increases implemented throughout West Virginia.

In light of all of this information, I ask that each of us consider all aspects and reasoning behind budgetary actions that our university takes and that we do not simply make generalizations on behalf of one particular department. I am proud to say that our university community is past the point of friction between constituencies. Our unified approach and openness expressed by all departments have led to and will continue to lead to success in all areas of our great university, including academics and athletics, and most importantly students and student-athletes alike. We are all in this together, and as always, We Are Marshall.

E.J. Hassan is Marshall University student body president.

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