Students discuss budget cuts, other issues at private forum

Student Government Association President T.J. Eaves held a private student forum last Thursday after a meeting with The Leadership Institute to get a sense of the student body’s opinions on major campus issues.

The forum was only open to students, and it offered a secure setting where students could voice their opinions on subjects concerning Western Carolina University. No administrators were allowed to this forum, but Eaves will take back the information given by the students to the university’s administrators.

The forum revolved around the new proposed budget for the 2012-13 academic year. SGA handed out a proposed budget with percentages showing increases in nearly every area, and students went through the budget to discuss the risen fees.

The Tuition and Fees Committee has proposed for most meal plan prices to be increased by almost 4 percent. However, Eaves noted that this increase would pay for the upstairs dining hall and one downstairs dining area to remain open till 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Students, in general, felt this was a good idea, except most disagreed with the proposed Burger Studio being the downstairs choice. They noted that because Burger Studio remained open late now it would not make sense to keep it open and pay more. Eaves asked which option they would like to see open, and most said McAlister’s.

This discussion transitioned into the student’s unhappiness with the current state of Western’s dining services. Most felt that the service was not up to par, and were not excited for dining services fees to go up $891 for in-state students next year if such service continued. Many said the upstairs dining hall has served mediocre food; one student commenting about uncooked bacon being served. Another student expressed how he was upset that many times he has been forced to wait for food to come out because the dining hall staff refused to serve until a certain time. Many students also voiced that they did not feel as though WCU’s dining services really cared about their comments and concerns because after filling out comment cards, nothing was ever done.

Students commented that they did not like Zoca, and that it should be replaced with a new dining option. Also, students desired to be able to use their declining balance at restaurants like Rolling Stone Burrito, Cat’s Nip Café, and The Mad Batter.

As the forum continued along the budget, students learned that parking fees are being proposed to be raised $12. Eaves informed the students that he has remained adamant that if administration wanted to raise parking fees, then they would have to build a new parking lot. The students agreed that in order to raise parking fees, Western’s administrators would have to do something to fix the university’s parking problem.

The students learned that a new gravel parking lot could possibly be built across the street next to WCU’s new Health Sciences building. This lot would be for freshmen parking, and the students at the forum were ok with the idea. However, the students showed concern about transportation to and from the parking lot, and the safety of the proposed lot. However, they did not agree with the idea to fence in the lot and lock it at night.

Many students felt that WCU’s Cat Tran service was not as efficient as it could be, and they did not agree with the increased budget to buy a new Cat Tran. Many students felt that it would be more cost efficient to repair one of the broken Cat Trans, or run more Cat Trans at the same time. They also wanted to see the Cat Tran running longer hours, and some suggested creating a smart phone application to show students where the Cat Tran was on campus.

The last conversation held by the students, after reading and discussing all the budget increases and their causes, was what are WCU’s administrators doing to save money? Students realized that because of inflation and rising student acceptances, certain items in a budget would need to be increased. One student suggested having a student project proposal where students constructed projects suggesting ways to save money.

Eaves and the rest of SGA left the forum pleased with the turnout and the conversations they were able to have without administrators around.

“Tonight was very beneficial for the Student Government Association. We received a lot of valuable feedback about students’ concerns, issues, and thoughts on the current and future state of our university,” Eaves said after the forum. “We look forward to taking all of the information we received tonight to upper administration. I would like to thank everyone who came out tonight.”