Economic concerns front and center at president’s Q&A session
Although the state of the economy is making headlines nationwide, ASU President Michael Crow said students are part of a very privileged group of people.
“In Arizona, less than 25 percent of the adult population has a college degree,” he said. “And here you are all today in 2008 at ASU.”
More than 100 students and faculty gathered in the Turquoise Room of the Memorial Union at the Tempe campus Wednesday for a student town hall session, hosted by Crow’s office and Undergraduate Student Government.
Questions about the effect of the economy on students in their quest for a higher education led the discussion.
History sophomore Sarah Atwill asked Crow what the administration is doing to prevent a rise in the cost of attendance for students.
Crow said the University has financial aid programs in place that cover tuition for students from low-income families.
“We have positioned ourselves in a way that, of 67,000 students, about half pay no tuition,” Crow said.
Atwill’s question was about cost of attendance, which includes fees, housing, meal plans and parking, and she said Crow focused specifically on the cost of tuition.
“Those things aren’t very nice to talk about, and I think that’s why he tried to refocus my question,” she said after the town hall.
Another student asked Crow how the University would attract new students amid the country’s economic turmoil and with tuition.
“We believe that we have ways to help these students and families that have financial needs,” Crow said.
He added that the federal government plans to increase the level of Pell Grants starting in 2010.
USG President Mark Appleton said the town hall is a great event because it gives every student the opportunity to come and talk about what’s bothering him or her.
“It had a good turnout. I think students asked some tough questions,” Appleton said. “Hopefully we have some more [town hall meetings].”
The microphone was opened up to students, who asked Crow questions on topics ranging from the current economic situation to help with more personal situations like scholarships.
Questions of sustainability were also raised, to which Crow replied that all new buildings are certified as Leading in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED.
For buildings already standing, Crow said the University will be renovating and redesigning along the LEED guidelines.
“We’re already in that [sustainable] modality, more than any other university in the country,” he said.
However, resolving problems with trash and recycling are still prominent University goals, Crow said.
Bonny Bentzin, manager of University sustainability practices, said she is spending a lot of time getting recycling programs rolling.
“One of our goals is to get a recycling container next to every trash can on the Tempe campus within a year,” she said.
However, Bentzin said this takes money, so officials have launched a sponsorship program.
“We have 13 containers pledged already, and they’ll be [placed] on campus in about a week,” she said.
Concerns of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community were also raised.
English senior Kendall Gerdes, co-director of ASU’s LGBTQ Coalition, asked Crow about his plans to develop an LGBTQ center. ASU is the only Pac-10 university that doesn’t have a center, she said.
In response, Crow said the development of centers is the result of the initiative of people within the University.
“There is no reason why we don’t have one other than no one has developed [a center],” he said.
An LGBTQ center on campus would help increase student health and resources and would also help recruit LGBTQ staff, Gerdes said after the town hall session.
“I think it should be one of the priorities on Crow’s growth list because ASU is huge and so is its LGBTQ community,” Gerdes said.
Although Crow expressed sympathy for students’ concerns during the meeting, he also said ASU does not have as many resources as other universities.
“[ASU] remains dramatically underfunded,” Crow said. “Arizona is facing a 20 to 30 percent reduction in revenue.”
The next student town hall meeting is scheduled for December on the Downtown Phoenix campus.
In between town hall meetings, Appleton encourages students to come to the USG office in the MU with any concerns or questions regarding the campus community.
“We’re here to represent the students. We’re here to be a liaison between the students and the faculty,” he said.
USG Press Secretary Christine Rocks said she knows how hard it is to be a college student with so many time restraints, but she said students have to ask questions and be proactive.
“If you do anything while attending college, [asking questions] is what you should do,” she said. “It’s really important to show the administration that we do care.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.