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President of Southeast's student government conflicted over $58 million renovation project

Friday, October 29, 2010

(Photo)
Southeast Missouri State University student government president Katie Herring, right, writes down ideas on a poster during a committee meeting Thursday to discuss ways of getting student feedback on a possible fee increase. Various government senators attended the meeting, including first-year senator Greg Felock, upper left, Daniel Schuenemeyer, Harrison College of Business senator, right, and Michael McKeever, bottom left, College of Education senator.
(Kristin Eberts) [Order this photo]
She's conflicted.

On one side, there's the financial burden of her fellow students. On the other, the long-term interests of her university. Either way she looks at it, the ramifications will be pronounced.

At 20, Katie Herring, president of Southeast Missouri State University student government, is dealing with the biggest issue of her young political life and feeling the weight of leadership.

"I can't think of any decisions we have made that have had such potential to have such a major impact on this university," the junior said. "This is the most steadfastly I've had to think about and plan what options we have."

The university's board of regents last week approved a plan to borrow $58.2 million for a campuswide maintenance and renovation campaign. The project would include a $22.78 million upgrade of the campus' century-old Academic Hall and a nearly $18 million renovation of Magill Hall, the university's science building. The proposal also calls for nearly $10 million in deferred maintenance projects and nearly $7 million in power plant upgrades.

Student government expects to lead a campaign in the coming weeks to educate students about the renovation plan and to take student comments.

A proposal calls for raising the student general fee for maintenance and repair by $5 a credit hour. That would be on top of the $6 fee set to go into effect next school year. The financing package calls for $3.4 million per year to service the debt, with student fees covering about $2.2 million of the load. Over the course of a 30-year borrowing plan, the student share could climb into the tens of millions of dollars.

But repairs and maintenance on many of the campus' buildings, administrators say, are long overdue. That's the quandary for Herring and Southeast student government.

"I'm conflicted," Herring said. "I know it needs to happen, but at the same time I know how difficult it could be for students.

"There are lot of students who work hard to be here, relying on part-time jobs and summer work, financial aid, grants and loans. And they're doing everything they can to stay here, and I know what a big hit this would mean."

For full-time, in-state students who take 15 credits a semester, the combined fee increases would raise tuition by $150. This year, tuition, including incidental and general fees, is $208.50 per credit hour.

But something has to give, officials say. Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins has described Academic Hall a "crisis ready to happen," and Magill Hall, administrators say, is ill-equipped to handle the educational needs of 21st-century science students.

For disabled students like Pat Sweeney, the campus and many of its buildings are in dire need of Americans With Disabilities Act upgrades. Sweeney, a student senator representing health and human services majors, has multiple sclerosis and is going blind.

"This campus is not designed for disabled students at all," she said. "I can tell you every crack on this campus."

The renovation plan would address the university's ADA issues.

Sweeney, 49, says she supports the project, if only to save disabled students from injury.

"Luckily no one so far has been hurt, but our luck could run out," she said.

Room for compromise

The Student Senate is expected to vote on the fee increase in time for the board of regents' December meeting.

Kathy Mangels, Southeast vice president for finance and administration, said the regents ultimately have decision-making authority but value the input of student government.

There appears to be room for compromise. Administrators and student senators are discussing the possibility of phasing in any increase, and the search continues for other sources to effectively buy down the financial obligation of students.

It's the heavy lifting of measuring constituent sentiment and finding consensus that Herring finds equally daunting and exhilarating. But the public relations major said she's not trying to sell anybody on anything. As president of student government, she has no vote in the matter but does carry a good deal of influence. In that role, Herring said, she will strive to remain neutral.

"I don't want to say this decision will define my presidency, but I feel very comfortable where we're at with it and I'm proud of the senate and student government," Herring said. "I'm sure they will make the best decision for this university."

mkittle@semissourian.com

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What, another tuition increase! Once again the students will suffer. It wasn't too long ago a student could work 30 hours a week and put themselves through college. No longer is that even remotely possible. Semo's enrollment has not increased that much in the last 30 years however they have 5 times the buildings they had 30 years ago. Shame on college officials for they have lost the vision to make it affordable for everyone to get a college education.

-- Posted by wolfwoman on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 9:05 AM

I wonder if Dr. Dobbins has any fountain renovations in this deal?

-- Posted by HEUER-1 on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 9:24 AM

indian fan, you may want to check some facts before you claim enrollment hasn't increased much in the past 30 years. In the past 10 years alone, enrollment has gone up over 2,000 students (8,342 in 2001 vs. 10,460 in 2010). I wasn't a math major but I think that's over a 20% increase. If you'd like to see the numbers for yourself, check out the enrollment reports on the Institutional Research website (http://www4.semo.edu/insresearch/Enrollment%20Statistics/University%20Reports/University%20Reports.html).

Comparatively, Southeast is one of the cheapest universities in the state.

-- Posted by whistleone on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 9:27 AM

You know it sure is funny everytime there is an article about tuition going up, there is always someone quick to pipe up "It's the cheapest." That's right it might be for Missouri residents. It's also an awful education. I for one can't wait to get out of here. Too bad I will struggle to get into a Masters Program that will be beneficial to me education- and networking-wise because of the poor reputation the university has.

This university is more concerned about the "liberal arts education" than it is about preparing students for the real world. The "liberal arts" classes are pointless for many students. And the university supports smoking and obesity on a daily basis. And we wonder why healthcare costs are on the rise...

-- Posted by redhawkstudent on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 9:39 AM

Redhawkstudent, if your education at Southeast is so "awful" then why don't you just leave? Nobody is forcing you to stay here.

I also wouldn't blame SEMO for your "struggle" to get into a master's program. It's your own fault if your test scores, GPA and networking skills aren't what they should be, its not the university's "poor reputation" thats holding you back.

And how does the university "support smoking and obesity on a daily basis"? That is probably one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard.

-- Posted by CLewis on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 10:02 AM

Well considering my program is one that once you enroll, you're stupid to leave. Because then you have to start at ground zero again. And luckily for me, I'm out of here in just a few weeks.

Since I've been told that I don't have the "experience necessary" and things like that due to the university and its reputation I can blame the university.

Now for the last point. You can take a bus 200 feet. Why should they have stops in between like that? For LAZINESS. And when the "Department of Public Safety" starts enforcing "public safety" that would be a good place to start. Currently there are "designated smoking areas" on campus, but nobody pays attention to them. Smokers smoke where they feel like smoking. DPS does nothing to fix that nor do they do much about illegal parking. Now, they'll write you a parking ticket all day long for being in a parking spot that you don't have a permit for, but they won't do much for parking in a "no parking zone" or a handicapped parking spot. They don't won't do anything about the dangerous parking that facilities management does on a daily basis.

Also, fitness is not a part of the "liberal arts education." It should be. It's so much more important to the day-to-day lives of every human being than literature or art ever will be. Nutrition would be another good place to start.

I'm sorry-- this university has soured me. Maybe I see things to the extreme at times. I actually look forward to the "real world."

-- Posted by redhawkstudent on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 10:47 AM

redhawkstudent

I am a SEMO alum and got into one of the top 5 PhD grad programs in my field. I admit, I felt I wasn't get much at SEMO as an undergrad but now that I have been out and seen other schools, SEMO is quality and at a great price. They prepared you more than you think.

-- Posted by kady alexander on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 11:01 AM

redhawkstudent-

Using the argument that "fitness is not part of the 'liberal arts education'" tells me that you only do what you're told. Do you need a class to tell you to eat everyday? Accept some personal responsibility for your health and take advantage of the fitness and wellness opportunities on campus. You're already paying for use of the rec centers so why not get something out of what you're paying for.

As for your lack of experience, have you pursued an internship during your time at Southeast? Have you consulted with the Career Linkages office to get their advice on what you need to do in order to get a job?

-- Posted by whistleone on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 11:51 AM

When I graduated from SEMO, I admit I had a bit of the inferiority complex towards my degree, compared with my new peers who had graduated from big, prestigious schools. A few years of real world experience taught me that my education at SEMO stacked up just fine. If you are a bright, self-motivated, and hard-working person, your degree from SEMO will carry you as far as you want it to go.

-- Posted by Mark Rutledge on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 12:19 PM

Semo student, while you may be stressed and frustrated at some of your current situations and some of those around you, if you're applying yourself and keeping a positive demeanor the doors of opportunity will open eventually for you. The education you're recieving is an opportunity to make of it what you want. There's so many directions you can take it but the lacking of quality complaint is doesn't hold up in my opinion. I didn't know nearly everyone in my major but I know there are 3 classmates of mine finishing up PHD's in the field as we speak. As frustrating as the application to grad school can be, I'm not quite sure that the undergrad university is to blame.

-- Posted by Cap_Anson on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 1:14 PM

redhawkstudent - I don't need to be as nice as some of the others are being, so I'll just say what I think -- you're an idiot. You'll never get anywhere in life with your attitude, and guess what, it won't be Semo's fault.

Now to the article -- I'm wondering why it was written in the first place. Student Government governs the students and the student organizations, they don't govern the University. And they certainly don't have any type of veto power over the administration and the Board of Regents decisions.

Sorry Ms Herring, these renovations are coming, and the increases are coming, regardless of what SG wants.

-- Posted by gomer on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 11:30 PM

couple points. Redhawk, I imagine your resentment shows up in the application process and that's why you're not able to get in to a graduate school. That being said, not sure why you didn't transfer to another school after your first year. A college should not guarantee your future. Now regarding tuition, I am noticing a change in tune between my older kids and now. When my older kids were starting college, they were saying, "don't let price stop you from going to school. You can get financial assistance in the form of student loans and your future is worth it" This year, they are saying, "well, be careful that you don't go into debt. You may or not be able to afford this. Somebody's got to flip the burgers at McDonalds". Good to see colleges are starting to be responsible and preaching responsibility. When I went to the college, tuition was $435 per semester and textbook rentals were $17.50. Today, tuition is 10 times that, dormitories are about $7500-8000 per year. At least you can rent textbooks for like $25 per book. Grand total for incoming freshment - they're saying set aside $15000 per year.

-- Posted by Beaker on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 11:54 PM

Thank you Gomer. I was thinking the same about the newsworthiness. I will never get used to the new style of journalism. It is just soft news all around. I haven't seen a lead paragraph that says who, what, where, when, and how in this newspaper in a long time. With small town newspapers, alot of focus on local people, local events - almost like a chicken dinner newspaper if you will. I'm guessing that's what advertisers like and it was a slow news day.

-- Posted by Beaker on Fri, Oct 29, 2010, at 11:59 PM

Gee. Well I see perfect reason to be upset. Because the University has forgotten its purpose. It's not about the students. This article shows that greatly. Yes the students should have a voice! They should have some say into increases in tuition and other fees. But this university has forgotten that and it's also forgotten (probably long ago) to live within a budget. Instead, they just stick more fees on the students.

-- Posted by redhawkstudent on Sun, Oct 31, 2010, at 2:15 PM


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