As a student in the School of Business, some might assume that I would be excited about the idea of developing the East Campus into a commercial space. The project leaders have expressed that this could bring millions of dollars in income to the school and would ultimately be a good investment. However, the key word in this statement should be “school”. Oakland University is not a company, but an educational institution that should focus on improving current services and implementing those that students have been demanding for years.
When the student convention finally got a chance to hear Vice President, College Aid, Michael Westfall (after he’s been persistently asking to meet since March), we asked about the plans for that revenue. He explained that part of the proceeds could be used to support students, perhaps through a foundation. While this sounds promising, the reality is that the university has been sitting on over $100 million in similar endowment funds while continuing to deny essential and requested services, including but not limited to the Bear Bus, textbooks and course materials, student wages, and the restoration of the dining room and library hours, etc. How can we trust the same board of trustees that reallocated money to this project to ensure the proceeds flow back to the students?
The administration is confused about the purpose of a university, especially considering they specifically said it would not be an area for students. If it’s not a student area and we can’t promise that the proceeds will go to student services, why should this project belong on our campus?
Through my training here at OU, I have learned the importance of conscious investment for a strong future. Of course, this concept applies financially, but also in other facets. If the OU has the time and resources to invest in this project, they should have focused on the services that the students were actively demanding, rather than this development that very few of us even want. Investing in education and student services will lead to higher retention rates, something the university has struggled with in recent years (shown by declining enrollment rates since 2015). It would also help OU become a university of choice for new students. In order to remain competitive as a university, we must strengthen our value of education through our investments. We need to leave urban planning to the cities and refocus on our goals as an educational institution, as current government action (or inaction) is causing enrollment and retention to continue to decline.
In my experience as Chair of the Student Activities Funding Board (SAFB), I have seen student organizations efficiently and effectively use their funding to host amazing events and advance their personal and professional endeavors. We work to enforce high standards of tax responsibility among the organizations we work with to ensure we make the best of what is given to us. If students are successful in meeting these standards, why can’t administration do the same?
Another interpretation of the concept of intentional investment can be applied to environmental sustainability. As someone planning to work in community development in the future, I’m no stranger to sustainable design – in fact, I’m a big fan of it. However, it is almost impossible to ensure that this development values sustainable design to the degree required now in its development and in the years to come. When asked what projects they are considering that would be more sustainable than leaving the country as it is, VP Westfall was unable to provide any examples. He even said: “The most sustainable thing is to do nothing at all”.
I personally think VP Westfall put it best himself. We shouldn’t do anything to this country. If you agree, please consider signing the Student Congress Petition.
Chairman of the Funding Committee for Student Activities