Editorial: Administrators should provide key information in advance of forums

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When we saw President Barbara R. Snyder’s email on Jan. 25 concerning changes to modify the admissions process, we weren’t sure what to expect. A couple paragraphs down, it became clear that this email was sent to promote discussion about the need-aware debate, rather than announce that a decision had been made.

The email featured a link to a website laying out the issue. We commend Snyder and CWRU administrators for this step.

The well-organized online FAQ will help reduce misinformation and promote better dialogue moving forward about changes to the process. Now all students have the chance to learn about arguments for and against the proposed changes at their own pace, and to actively engage when the time comes to discuss the issue with their peers. For example, students can now evaluate both sides before approaching the Undergraduate Student Government’s (USG) new Admissions Policy Commission, which will meet for the first time this Saturday, Feb. 6.

This is a fantastic step towards fully engaging the undergraduate student body. The editorial board hopes that this approach can become the norm when discussing campus issues, instead of being something so unique.

For example, this Friday, Feb. 5, Provost Bud Baeslack will engage in the now annual tradition of hosting a forum to explain the reasons behind this year’s tuition increase. An email announced the event with the subject line: “Reminder: Pizza Lunch with the Provost on Friday.” In the email’s vague 105 word email speaking of “initiatives to enhance student learning and life experiences,” the provost managed to not only avoid any information that would actually make a CWRU student concerned or even more informed, but also didn’t even mention the tuition increase. Somehow, there was an understanding that pizza, rather than a tuition increase between 3-4 percent, was what students needed to hear about.

Pizza might be a good way to open doors, but not necessarily a conversation.

USG’s newsletter, in contrast, began with “Do you have questions about CWRU’s rising tuition costs?” USG has also put up flyers around campus, promoting the forum.

USG’s and President Snyder’s email show how information should be communicated and why it should be done ahead of time.

To put this situation in more relatable terms, think of the classroom. One new initiative across CWRU is the “reverse classroom,” where students do their “homework” in class after learning how to do it the night before. In this new system, students learn and think critically about information at their own comfortable pace and are ready to engage in problem solving when it comes to class time.

Instead of hoping to entice students with pizza, let’s give them the opportunity to look up the information and let them form their own opinions ahead of time. Much like the informative website concerning the admissions process, this action would allow students to better understand their own concerns and the administration’s stance on the issue. Instead of simple balking, reasonable CWRU students may even agree with tuition increases, after getting a chance to learn on their own time.

Creating a website may be excessive for every issue, but basic info about tuition rates would better prepare students for conversations about campus issues.

Providing the facts and arguments in detail about all sides of a campus issue ahead of a Q&A session is the fairest approach to discussing something as important as tuition increases.

While Pizza with the Provost is an attempt at engaging the campus community, it can be improved next year by follow Snyder’s example.