Board of Trustees hears campus opinions throughout meeting

After hearing a report from Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz and Provost James Lentini regarding improvements in academic advising and student retention, Oakland’s Board of Trustees launched into a two hour meeting full of congratulations and discussion.

The BOT unanimously approved the awarding of the Alfred G. and Matilda R. Wilson Awards and Humanitarian Award to three seniors who the BOT feels represent the best of this year’s graduating class. These three students were Zachary Johnson Walker,¬†Carlie Austin and Caroline Julia Wolber.

“We have many wonderful students who emerge as student leaders able to tackle challenges and opportunities,” said Vice President of Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Glenn McIntosh. “But today we have a chance to honor our top three students.”

Other initiatives approved were a degree in music technology, a new gift policy that will follow industry “best practices” and the creation of an outreach office located in Detroit to easily access Wayne County students.

After these approvals, the BOT discussed University Housing’s proposed budget for the 2018-19 academic year in a presentation from Housing Director James Zentmeyer. With the addition of Hillcrest Hall, Housing has had more returning residents than ever and expects to fill every bed next year according to Zentmeyer.

Along with renovation costs for some of the older residence halls, Housing also wants to fund scholarships for students living in Wayne County as a incentive to attend Oakland. A proposed 3.3 percent increase in the cost of Housing would fund both these things.

This raised concern from several BOT members and Student Liaison to the BOT Sean Foe because on-campus students would be paying for other students to also live on campus. A similar Housing scholarship is already funded through tuition, but the demand has become too large for the general fund to bear, so this increase in Housing’s cost would relieve that burden.

“I know that we are working under limited resources,” BOT member Tonya Allen said. “[But] I’m concerned that we increase the cost to students, which we continually talk about, for [others in] our student population. I’d rather do that in a more creative way… As my grandmother would say, we’re nickle and dime-ing our students. And I don’t like that.”

The budget passed 6/2, with Allen and BOT member Marianne Fey voting no.

After all agenda items were discussed, 2017-18 Student Body President Lena Mishack and 2017-18 Student Body Vice President Jousef Shkoukani approached the BOT with Student Congress resolutions.

They proposed to raise the Student Activity Fee, which will allocate more funds to student-run organizations. 2017-18 Chair of the Student Activities Funding Board, Kayla Dafoe, read a statement penned by 88.3FM WXOU News Director Erin Ben-Moche explaining how the Fee benefits student life.

Mishack and Shkoukani also encouraged more lobbying to increase Oakland’s state funding as well as an investment in Open Education Resources, which would allow students to access some textbooks free of charge. The latter item has already been passed by OUSC and the Faculty Senate.

“I really appreciate it whenever the students come up and the recommendations that you make really have a lot of value,” said BOT member Ronald Robinson. “I like the idea of the funding issue with student involvement, I think it could be a game changer for us.”

The BOT will meet again on June 4, 2018 at 2 p.m. in the Elliott Hall Auditorium.