Feb 082009
Authors: J. David McSwane

As long as I’ve been here, the administration and Board of Governors of the CSU system has had a penchant for underestimating its students.

And it always hurts them where it counts — image. If for only that reason, the BOG should endorse the current proposal to the state legislature to allow the student government president a vote on the board.

Remember, in spring 2007, when former CSU President Larry Penley snuck a last minute amendment into the Long Bill — the state budget — that would have effectively increased tuition by about $1,200 per in-state student in one year? I sure do.

The legislative affairs director of ASCSU found it and alerted student leaders; the Collegian ran a searing, critical editorial the next day; and Penley received a public butt whooping.

His defense: “I only wanted to increase our spending authority allowed by the state. That is not a tuition increase.” And he didn’t need to alert students because, well, we’re dumb and we don’t understand the mounting and now much more dire budget constrictions.

But students didn’t fall for that. We knew an increase in spending authority would directly translate to a tuition increase, which is the only immediate and viable budget solution for CSU. The jig was up.

Despite poignant criticism from student leaders, the state legislature and Gov. Bill Ritter, Penley kept his job, which led many to believe the BOG either sponsored or condoned Penley’s fast-and-loose politics.

Many say that was the beginning of the end for Penley — at least that’s when several bright students in the Associated Students of CSU, a couple of rogue professors and I started paying attention. And a bevy of other controversial stories would emerge involving Penley and his top-loaded administration, for which the BOG was ultimately liable.

Penley resigned abruptly last semester with a less-than-popular reputation, and the BOG paid him off handsomely and promised to never tell its public what happened (I think we can assume one who resigns mid-semester for personal reasons — a nullifying breach of his contract — didn’t leave on good terms).

But their constituents, the students and taxpayers, don’t deserve an answer.

Well, I’m not OK with that. While Interim CSU President Tony Frank so far appears to have kept his promise to be transparent with the budget and to begin any “belt tightening” at the administrative level, students are in for rough years ahead.

The state has no money, and neither does CSU (unless you’re a parting administrator), so where does the buck fall? You guessed it — students.

As the economy continues to tumble, Colorado (already among the most pathetic examples of funding for higher education) is taking an especially tough hit. That means tuition, the largest slice of CSU’s budget pie, will skyrocket.

Administrators will tell you that CSU is still relatively affordable compared to its “peer institutions,” but many argue that, in that crowd, which includes CU-Boulder, CSU is an overly-ambitious little brother. But I don’t think ambition is a bad thing.

Regardless, tuition will increase. It’s inevitable, and I think it should happen, but not all at once as Penley once tried to do.

As students become an even more substantial source of revenue for this university and our brethren in Pueblo, should we have more authority in the policies and decisions of the BOG and the administration? You bet your green-and-gold derriere.

Let’s pretend our university becomes the bastion of transparency and fiscal responsibility promised by the post-Penley administration. We’ll still have myriad issues that must be addressed, including more and more classes being taught by adjunct professors, expensive textbooks and campus construction.

The BOG and the future university president would be unwise to exclude an already cognizant, intelligent and tried-and-true student body bound to face an even heavier burden in funding this great institution.

Students, write your state legislature, the board and the administration.

To be overly dramatic, tell them we will not have more taxation without representation.

If they don’t listen, we can always dress up as those silly Honors Students and raid their next board meeting. Maybe then they’ll take us seriously.

Enterprise Editor J. David McSwane is a senior journalism and technical communications major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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