I NEED some serious wisdom. Over the past two years at IWU I have grown to love the people of this campus, teachers and students alike. However, that being said, I could not be more ashamed and disappointed with the way the University has turned its back on its students (especially the middle and now vast lower class, where the obvious and fatal socio-economic effects of the recession occur). I was wondering if you could politely ask President Wilson why he finds it in his power to build an atrium that the student body would have much rather seen as a classroom or additional grant/scholarship funds . Also could you ask why he has been unwilling to review the financial status of his current students? Now I am sure he has taken a glance and noticed some of the effects of the recession (just turn on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, or any other major network in the United States), but he clearly has not done a decent job if he decided to raise the tuition once again. I understand it was not as vast as in previous years, but that does not explain why it still was raised to the highest tuition in Illinois. I understand the school has financial obligations that it is required to cover, including salaries and Sodexho, but isn’t the key part to the mission statement of any university the part about the “student?” Quite frankly, at this school students are more like a form of easy cash and once you’re in, the administration will turn their back on you and watch as your family struggles to stay afloat. I hope that I have this all wrong, but like I have said it seems only that the opposite is prevalent on campus. Thanks so much Tommy! I cannot wait to hear from you or President Wilson.
–THE TYPICAL IWU STUDENT
I appreciate you sharing your concerns with me. Some of this is beyond the scope of my column, but I will answer what I can as directly as possible. You should know that these are my words, and I have not consulted the President on any of this. In fact, I’ve only asked for his help with one column so far—Super Bowl picks—and he nailed it.
First, the Joslin Atrium is a gift from a pair of donors who wanted to spiff up the Memorial Center as part of the Transforming Lives campaign we’re in. President Wilson didn’t ask them to build the atrium, but that’s what they wanted. Did you get any gift certificates for Christmas? Did you refuse them because they stipulated where you had to spend that money? Right. Now, you should also know that of the $125 million IWU is trying to raise in the next five years, $100 million will go toward growing the endowment, not for capital projects like the atrium. What’s more, $30 million is to go directly to students in the form of scholarships and financial aid—the largest single component of the campaign—and President Wilson was very involved in establishing the campaign strategy. The administration is aware of the challenges students and their families face, and that’s in part why the campaign is structured as it is.
I can assure you that no one wants to make decisions that negatively affect people on this campus—but 85% of the budget is people. The recession is requiring tough decisions to be made. Did you know that all faculty and staff salaries have been frozen for two years and retirement benefits have been cut in half? And departmental budgets, which have been frozen for some time, are now being cut by 1.5 to 2%. Every part of the campus community is feeling the pinch.
We do not have the highest tuition in Illinois. That’s a fact. And there really is no way around raising tuition for a school that is dependent upon tuition revenue (like the vast majority of schools in the country). If we could build the endowment, which as you now know we’re trying to do, we could afford to implement lower tuition raises—and that’s just what the administration would like to do.
Lastly, I have not encountered, in my many days here at IWU, a more student-centered president than Dick Wilson. He isn’t perfect (like yours truly), but he does consider the ramifications of every single decision on the lives of students and their families. While you may not always be aware of all that goes into the decisions made on campus, know that the powers that be truly have your best interest in mind. And if you don’t believe me, contact the President directly. He has email, even if he isn’t cool enough to have a column of his own.