LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The Need for Students to Organize
This is a letter to the editor from Duncan Tierney, a senior from Lake Orion.
I feel obligated to make an announcement that shouldn’t surprise anybody: Central Michigan University is completely and utterly out of touch with the needs of their student body.
Anybody who has ever worked as a student employee, whether it be in dining services or in landscaping, can tell you how it feels to stand on your feet all day for no thanks and little pay. The residence life staff will also work long and late hours, balancing school and work, being woken up in the middle of the night. They’re compensated with a room that would have otherwise remained empty and food that would have otherwise gone uneaten. This disheartening trend continues to every other area of student employment as well.
If working through college would guarantee a life free of student debt, then these conditions would be understandable. But anybody who has ever worked for the school knows that you would be hard-pressed to find money for anything beyond books and maybe groceries.
But the problem goes well beyond working conditions. College students today are subject to pressures that they haven’t been subjected to in years. Tuition and housing costs are rising exponentially. Bachelor’s degrees are no longer the employment guarantee that they once were. We are graduating into a world where benefits and pensions are a thing of the past.
And how does the administration cope with this? Does it lobby for more federal funding of higher education? Does it fight to bring tuition rates down to reasonable levels? Does it provide reasonable payment and benefits for on-campus jobs? Does it take a stand against an education system that forces lower and middle-income students into a lifetime of debt for trying to better their job prospects? The short answer: No.
What it does do however is equally remarkable. It manages to underpay professors while simultaneously overcharging students. Applications, credit hours and parking are all laden with ridiculous fees. People have to pay to get credit hours for the internships that they work at. The university has students paying to work.
The administration uses financial aid and scholarships as excuses, as if those do anything meaningful to combat the problem (referring to these handouts as meaningful financial aid is like peeing on an inferno then referring to yourself as a firefighter). The administration does nothing to stand up for students, it does nothing to stand up for student employees, and it does nothing to fight for the affordable higher education that every other Western democracy considers a birthright. But, hey, at least we got a new scoreboard. So that helps.
If the university was getting results from this system, that might be one thing. But frankly, it isn’t. Student enrollment has plummeted to the point where entire buildings have been shut down. Academic programs frequently get cut. Our professors can’t focus on teaching us because they often have to work second jobs to make rent. The administration’s higher ups are eating caviar while the rest of us sell plasma.
It’s easy for the administration to respond with a litany of useless excuses: ‘We aren’t the only college doing this,’ or ‘this is a national problem’ or ‘you can’t expect us to do what others aren’t’. Meanwhile, they don’t accept tuition payments in the form of excuses, and I’ve never heard of somebody getting a hold taken off their student account because ‘this is a national problem’. At the end of the day, their name is on the bill. It’s time for us to stop accepting excuses and start expecting results.
According to Central Michigan University’s website there are 21,705 students enrolled at this university. That’s more than the margin of victory for Michigan in the 2016 presidential election. To effect change, 21,705 people is more than enough. It’s high time that students organize to demand a responsive administration.
Remember this: Your dollars are what make this university run, and the next board of trustees meeting is 9 a.m. Sept. 19 in the University Center. Remember how loud 21,705 voices can get.