Working together to make it better

Re-imagining the tuition forum

The Observer

Last year, the Provost’s annual tuition forum was plagued by low attendance and an apparent lack of interest from the student body. The administration has made efforts this year to draw a larger crowd through advertisements intended to promote knowledge of the event. However, it is The Observer’s belief that more collaboration is need to yield a forum experience that would better benefit the campus community.

The administration needs to address the cause of the students’ lack of engagement. At this point, it is safe to say that the problem has its roots not necessarily in the lack of publicity but in the lack of detailed information about the forum and the topics to be discussed. It is difficult — even for a CWRU student — to take part in a meaningful conversation and ask questions about tuition if there is a lack of knowledge on the topic.

This means going farther than simply listing the topics in an e-mail blast to students. Detailed information, such as the proposed tuition changes, should be available before the forum to encourage student engagement with the issues at hand. By giving students time to examine the proposals, the forum would become more of a conversation rather than just an educational lecture.

So how could the administration change this?

One promising action the administration has taken this spring was an email to the Student Executive Council (SEC) soliciting student feedback on this year’s date of the annual forum. While a great move by the administration, the SEC’s role should not stop there. Each organization within the SEC has a unique purpose, and controls unique channels of communication with the student body — something the administration should use to their advantage. What if the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Congress asked their members to promote the forum in their respective chapters? What if University Media Board could share details on upcoming changes prior to the forum, giving students time to organise communication points and feedback?

An earlier start to the engagement process also opens the door for more creative tactics. University officials could promote the forum by sharing informational advertisements or videos on Facebook and Twitter. What if much of the education aspect occurred before the forum itself began, to allow for better interaction? CWRU’s exceptionally high network speeds open the door to video streams and instant communication nearly unimaginable in the forums of twenty years ago; however, these digital forums are only useful if they’re actually used.

If the Office of the Provost is concerned about the lack of participation in the event, there are a few ways they could manage to avoid crickets. Attendance issues can always be partially blamed on CWRU students — participation and engagement are not always our strongest feat. But small, strategic moves on the administration’s part could change the situation. If students have trouble engaging in the discussion, it is the obligation of the Office of the Provost to ensure the channels are available for active involvement.

The importance of student engagement in administrative forums can not be understated. The administration and student leadership have the resources needed to increase and improve communication and collaboration with the student body; but again, these resources are only useful if they’re being used.