<< Front page News April 9, 2004

Senate plans future

Financial transparency, tuition and the role of students in the administration’s decision-making process were the main issues discussed at the first of an ongoing series of strategic planning meetings hosted by Student Senate Wednesday.

“The strategic planning initiative is an effort to determine what Oberlin College will look like over the next five years and provide a framework for decision making in the future,” student senator Vivek Bharathan said.

A persistent source of frustration for the 17 students present was the inability of the student body to understand how the College’s money is spent.

OSCA President Ann Sorich spoke of her organization’s impasse in finalizing its rent contract with ResLife.

“This is supposed to be a negotiation,” she said. “But it’s very frustrating when our rents are being raised and they tell us we’ve already been budgeted in but won’t show us where our money is going.”

Other OSCA members present expressed dissatisfaction with the way the college deals with its co-ops.

“If there’s a bent screen in a room they’re always quick to charge us,” one member said. “But when serious repairs need to be done and student safety is being neglected it can take months.”

“The College seems to view OSCA as a parlor trick to attract students to come here,” another said. “It’s very frustrating to see the way that they’re trying to turn the co-ops into dorms.”

Bharathan stressed the importance of transparency in policy negotiations.

“It’s not really possible to maintain a dialogue with the level of information we have right now,” he said.

The rising costs of Oberlin living were also an issue of contention.

“I don’t see why our tuition has to raise five percent every year,” Sorich said.

Senator Curtis Ferguson focused more on the service cuts that have accompanied the tuition increases.

“I don’t care how much they raise our tuition,” he said. “But I should be able to print as many pages as I want and be able to get enough food to eat at Dascomb and Decafe. If tuition is going to go up, we should at least expect the same level of services we’ve had in previous years.”

Conditions for minority students on campus were also discussed.

“We need more students of color on this campus,” Ferguson said. “There were more black people at Oberlin 30 years ago then there are today. Our peer institutions are doing a lot more to attract these students.”

The discussion also addressed other forms of diversity.

“I don’t want a diverse student body of only upper middle class students,” senator Vorris Mayes said.

“There’s no diversity of opinions here,” senator Ronnie Goines said. “If you’re Republican here you’re the scum of the earth. This is supposed to be a place where you can express your opinions but there are a lot of students with more mainstream views that don’t get heard.”

The main question of the evening was what role students and specifically Student Senate should play in the College’s decision-making process.

“Oberlin College is a business,” Goines said. “And as stockholders in that business we have a lot of say and a lot of power when we use it. It’s a matter of us mobilizing on issues that we want to mobilize on and utilizing the power we have.”

Others at the meeting were not as sure.

“When stockholders want to see information they are immediately granted that information,” Lina Elbadaw said. “That’s not how it is here.”

“I don’t want to have to mobilize in the streets to get my way,” one OSCA member said. “I’d rather have a civilized conversation but that doesn’t seem to be possible.”

Ideas for making Student Senate more relevant were also discussed.

“We as leaders need to work harder to get referendums passed,” Ferguson said. One idea for doing this is a system of e-mail ballots which will go into effect next semester.

“We’re in a catch-22 right now,” Bharathan said. “We can’t get anything done until people think we’re a legitimate body and people won’t think we’re a legitimate body until we get something done.”

The meetings will be held every week until next semester. The next meeting will be held in Wilder next Wednesday at 8 p.m.


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