On Feb. 21, the Board of Trustees held a coffee hour that was open to the student body. This coffee hour was meant to demonstrate that the Board of Trustees is open to the input of the general student population.
However, this could not be further from the truth. This coffee hour was held after most of the decisions regarding the next budget cycle had already been made.
At the meeting, Board Chairman Jeff Sine rejected the suggestions of multiple students regarding specific ways that students could increase their say in the decision-making process of the University. He made it clear that the board was ignoring the voice of over 1,700 students who signed the CAUS petition demanding a tuition freeze for the next budget cycle. Our exponentially increasing tuition is evidently a problem the Board of Trustees has no interest in solving.
It was for this reason that 14 members of CAUS blocked the doors to the Board of Trustees meeting held in the Butler Board Room on Feb. 22 to demand that the Board of Trustees stop ignoring student voices. Six of us created a human chain in front of the main entrance to the board room.
Public Safety arrived on the scene and violently attempted to break the chain, grabbing a student’s neck, ripping clothing and throwing one student across the room.
Despite the aggressive attempts made by Public Safety, the chain kept. Board members were made to enter through the back doors of the room.
A few Board members came to us at the front door, seeking to speak with us. Issues we brought up ranged from tuition hikes, to budget transparency, to student representation. Sine avoided directly answering our questions and concerns by talking in circles and diverting accountability for the previous words of board members (“A tuition freeze is never going to happen.” -Neil Kerwin) away from the board itself.
Gail Hanson, vice president of campus life, thought it would be comforting to assure us that the Board usually has the best interests of the students in mind. She also informed us that student action is what made the Board cut the size of the tuition increase for the upcoming year.
However, she failed to even fathom the possibility and necessity of students being the real agents of their own interests.
While easy access to open communication between the Board and students is an important goal to strive for, the “open communication” we experienced today simply confirmed that the real issues at hand are generated by fundamental and structural flaws in AU’s decision-making process; the goal is to make communication meaningful, not circular.
At Feb. 21’s coffee hour, Sine said that “democracy is the best system we’ve got,” but that the board of trustees is not a democracy. CAUS will continue to fight to make AU a true democracy.
Max Brekke, CAS 2015
Chris Golembeski, CAS 2015
Paul Grobman, SPA 2015
This was written on behalf and with the approval of CAUS.