The President’s Report: Nov. 2, 2016

Zack Thomas, Student Body President

Hello, my fellow OU students!
I hope you all had a Happy Halloween on Monday! Before and during the holiday, your University Student Congress (OUSC) and I were hard at work on several initiatives.
I sent a letter to Chairman DeVore of the Board of Trustees regarding the Presidential Search Committee. After the last board meeting, I spent hours in the office drafting the letter and coordinating with the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors on both organizations’ statements. Additionally, I was able to obtain very helpful feedback from Anders Engnell, your vice president, and Madison Kubinski, a senior member of your University Student Congress — feedback that helped to make the letter as persuasive and effective as it could be. Therein, I very thoroughly outlined the argumentation for both a student voice and a student vote on the Presidential Search Committee.
We, thus far, have gotten one of those — both Cassie Hock and Sean Foe (thanks in large part to their persuasive leadership) are now both official non-voting members of the committee, and, considering the language of the OU official statement on Friday, Oct. 28, it seems they now hold a more official role in presenting the student perspective and representing the student interests. Anders and I are also grateful that Vice President for Student Affairs Glenn McIntosh, a pro-student administrator, will have an official vote on the committee.
As such, Anders and I will be working with them closely over the next month to help advise them on student concerns and the direction the university should be taking in order to best benefit the students.
However, as we said in an OUSC statement, though we are grateful for the addition of the student voice to the committee, we are disappointed that the board did not add a student vote to the committee — we want to talk and be heard. Anders and I intend to continue to work with the board on this issue to make certain the student voice is heard through an actual vote. Anders and I met with President George Hynd and McIntosh on Oct. 25. They were largely supportive of the Presidential Search Committee efforts mentioned above.
We were not so much in agreement when it came to parking, though. Recently, with their support, we put out a parking survey through OU’s Communications and Marketing Department. Accordingly, our student survey respondents spoke out pretty clearly against paid parking, but seemed open to a limited number of paid parking lots (of which I am still critical).
However, President Hynd stated, “I think we are going to have to go with paid parking,” and indicated that it was helpful to know the student view, so that the administration could explore a couple of years-long transition plans. He also stated that achieving most of our OUSC goals for the year was a great accomplishment.
I then challenged the growth mindset and growth model of the university (Considering that most universities are not growing beyond capacity, why is OU recruiting so many students when we do not have the space? This creates an extraordinary tuition and parking burden on those of us already here). I stated that if we accepted 100 to 200 less students — maybe focusing on improving our 44 percent retention rate instead — then “the parking problem” would be a lot less substantial.
Hynd did not seem to understand, and responded that although we will “be lucky to flat-line” our growth for the next five or so years, growth may happen after that, which was the mindset I was trying to contradict. It is a mindset change that needs to happen gradually, I suppose, but is confounding to administrators who want to just grow, grow and grow the university in line with the board’s approved Campus Master Plan. Anders, myself, and the rest of OUSC will continue to challenge this mindset and amplify the student voice wherever possible.
Despite these issues, this last month was also very productive and positive. We ended up registering 526 individual students to vote, shattering numbers from previous years! Additionally, we helped many students with voter information and absentee ballot applications. Although we have concluded those services now, we are still here to help if you need general voter information! Happy to serve!
Additionally, in my September President’s Report, I spoke about pursuing changes in our registration system to improve functionality. I’m very excited to announce that our registration system will be new and improved in the coming months. It will be “soft-launched,” allowing students to choose to use the old system for a time. The new system, however, will allow students to access the full range of information needed for registration on one tab (as opposed to having to have four tabs open in the previous system to register). I was happy to provide student input to the Office of the Registrar to fine-tune the system and resolve any potential issues. I only have limited space here, so please reach out to me via [email protected] if you are interested in learning more about the new registration system!
As always, Your University Student Congress and I thrive on your input. Please reach out using our email at [email protected], or come to our General Body Meetings at 4 p.m. on Mondays in the Oakland Room of the OC. Additionally, we now have a text-suggestion number, so that we can increase the amount of input we receive from our constituents — you, the students we serve! Please text your suggestions, concerns or ideas to (248) 957-1665, and one of my staff or I will reach back out to resolve!
Zack Thomas
OU Student Body President