The beginning of the academic year is a stirring reminder that universities are bizarre places.
In an environment where thousands of students arrive just as thousands more are preparing to leave, hardly anyone remembers – or is around to say – what the big controversies or news stories were just three years ago, it’s easy to forget the issues that previous generations of students grappled with.
Couple this with the eerie quiet of summer on campus, and you have a ready-made opportunity for officials at all levels to quietly dig into the archives and dust off the summer reruns: policy changes and initiatives that look suspiciously like ones we’ve seen many times before.
In the spirit of institutional memory, therefore, here are a few things that happened this summer, while most of us were out of town. If you’re just coming to CSU as a freshman, you’re likely to see them attempted again before you graduate.
Summer rerun number one: Tuition went up, again. Full-time undergraduates from Colorado will be paying almost $300 per semester more than they did last year; out-of-state students will shell out over $1,200 more each term.
That’s peanuts, though, compared to the nearly 40 percent tuition hike that CSU administrators tried to slip through last spring. Fortunately, astute students caught on to the legislative trickery at the last minute, and friendly legislators made sure that the move died in Denver. But you can be sure they’ll be back.
I’m sure it’s easy, when trying to balance a state budget that amounts to billions of dollars, to forget that figures on a page translate into real consequences for thousands of students and their families.
The pressure to raise tuition is strong, so our state legislators need to be reminded that rising tuition costs are a real burden. If you meet one of your representatives, make sure they know you’re not eager to check your tuition bill in three years and find that you can’t afford your last semester of college.
Summer rerun number two: City council cracked down on students, again.
Whether controlled by the conservative or the liberal factions of local politics, city council has a habit of using the summer to discuss policy changes that disproportionately affect students.
In recent years, they’ve enacted or reaffirmed restrictions on rental housing, which is why no more than three students can share a house, and on loud parties, which is why a violation of the city noise ordinance can show up on your permanent criminal record.
This summer, it was property maintenance standards – and sure enough, the area around campus contains “a concentration” of houses with peeling paint and poorly maintained yards. However, the continued finger wagging from local government hasn’t encouraged students to be better neighbors, and the message most students hear from homeowners and from city officials is that we’re just transient nuisances.
Every once in a while, though, city leaders should remember that students are the economic and cultural engine of Fort Collins. Without us, the city wouldn’t have a vibrant downtown, tech companies wouldn’t have highly skilled graduates to hire and the city wouldn’t have the dollars we pay in sales taxes for bike trails or police officers.
CSU administration isn’t immune from criticism, either. Their summer rerun schedule included the latest in a long line of paternalistic alcohol-awareness programs and an artful step back from unconstitutional restrictions on free speech.
Although predictable, I don’t find these summer reruns depressing. In fact, they’re signs of an opportunity:
When state, local and university leaders finally abandon the same old routine and come up with innovative ways to address problems in a collaborative manner – during the academic year, with input and involvement from actual students – they’ll have stumbled onto a gold mine.
Seth Anthony is a chemistry Ph.D. student. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com