A lot of confusion surrounds Senate’s proposed $150 per semester fee that many students are still unaware of, or that it’s being voted on this coming Tuesday. We’ve given you, the students, the best information possible based on what we understand and what we have been told by administration and student government members. To further your understanding, and our own, we went straight to SGA President Kyle Nicholas to get the clearest possible answer as to what the fee is and how it affects Eastern.
So, here’s what he told us:
What the fee covers is a $55-60 million debt service, the money from which can only possibly go towards two things: a student union and the fitness and wellness center. No other program or plans can dip into the money collected by the fee. There are currently no blueprints or plans whatsoever as to what the student Union and the fitness center will look like, or if the fee will be used to repurpose current buildings on campus to create the facilities. The first step is to come up with the money now, then figure out the mechanics later.
In order to apply for agency bonds from the Kentucky state legislature’s 2016 budget year, Eastern must show that there is already a revenue stream set in place in order to come up with the necessary money. Otherwise, any plans would have to be put off until the 2018 budget year.
The Kentucky state legislature only has so much money available to distribute from a pool, and the goal of pushing the fee through now is to put Eastern first on the list for that pool in 2016. Again, the alternative is to wait until 2018 and try again.
Also, the vote’s early date is set to keep it off the SGA elections timeline. One way or another, something needs to be set in stone before campaigning begins so no candidates make it part of a platform.
Our biggest question over the whole ordeal has been what SGA and Senate and anyone else involved has done to inform all Eastern students on the fee. Nicholas said he has personally visited classes to inform and gather feedback, and that he makes the visits based on invitations from the classes. Tuesday’s informational forum about the fee, held a week before the fee’s voting date, was open and streamed live on Eastern’s website. However, the availability of streaming was not announced on SGA’s twitter page until after the 5 p.m. meeting had started. The EKU Students Today email had two sections discussing the forum on Feb. 24. One sponsored by SGA and the other by the Future is Now Committee.
As for employing social media, SGA and Senate have done “a little bit.” SGA made one tweet about the forum the day before it was held, then two others informing about the live feed after the forum had started. Other EKU twitter pages, such as EKU Stories and EKU Admissions, retweeted the tweet. Nicholas said that SGA has tried to keep President Benson away from being the sole person tweeting about the fee as to not make it seem that it is being “forced from the top.” As far as we know, Senate does not have a twitter page.
Nicholas said that public relations efforts concerning the fee were hindered due to last week’s infamous “Snow Week.” A video shoot was scheduled for that week’s Monday for an informative commercial about the fee, but was pushed back to this past Monday and should be released over the weekend on social media and online. Nicholas also said Scott Cason’s team has been working on getting information out.
As for continuing information after the vote, assuming the fee passes, Nicholas said there will be a lot more renderings and videos on possibilities of the future. There are also plans to create focus groups and to bring students together with architects and administration on how to provide the most bang for the students’ buck, Nicholas said.
Now here’s what we suggest:
We needed way more information much further in advance. A fee this big and this impactful should be one of the biggest things students are talking about, and despite efforts, it’s not. You can tweet and email as much as you want, but when it comes down to it, you have to get out on campus with flyers and booths and meet with students face-to-face.
And if you are going to focus heavily on the internet for distributing information, make a stronger presence and give a better effort. For one, Senate doesn’t even have a twitter, or at least we couldn’t find it. The Eastern site should be updated regularly, and twitter and emails should be sent out several times a day and encourage student feedback.
One forum a week before the vote is not adequately involving students in the issue. Forums should have started a month ago or more, and maybe even several a week. Giving only one chance for 30-50 students to ask questions directly is not properly informing a university of over 16,000 people.
An ideal way to get out information and properly inform students would have been to set up a booth on Powell corner or in middle Powell and have a group of senators actively talking with students and explaining what’s going on. That means clear visuals and handouts and official documentation. We need well-versed senators confidently speaking with students directly on what they want.
Even more, we need to know who our senators are. Students don’t have any faces to put with the organization that will potentially be passing mandatory fees. You’ll show more trust, sincerity and understanding if you show that you’re human.
This is what needed to happen and what still can happen if student senate agree to postpone the vote next Tuesday. More info, more time.