COLUMN: Student reps advocate for campus improvements

The initiatives proposed to the Board of Trustees at the Feb. 12 meeting include some of the most discussed and desired initiatives by the students. We support Oakland University’s investment in these areas.

As addressed in the Dec. 3 BOT meeting, the inadequate on-campus housing capacity has affected the amount of high-achieving students Oakland can attract from a more regional, national and international level.

Our programs and prestige have grown beyond the tri-county area, and our on-campus housing needs to accommodate for this sort of growth.

For these reasons, students were relieved when the BOT approved plans to initiate the design and build process of a new housing building. The amount of money the administration proposed to sell in bonds also provided for additional campus improvements, which were presented at the BOT meeting Tuesday.

The other major projects brought to the board as part of the bonds issuance included the construction of a parking structure and a set of improvements to the upper play fields. Both of these projects are highly desired among students.

Students, faculty and community members often remark on the poor parking availability at OU during peak hours. This will undoubtedly become worse when nearly half of P5 is taken offline for the construction of the housing building.

The engineering building currently underway and the completed Human Health Building are already affecting the parking availability.

In order to regain the lost spaces and continue to meet the “convenient commuter university” market that OU attracts, a parking structure is absolutely required. The structure’s location, which is proposed to be between Elliot, Kresge Library, SEB and the new engineering building, will help alleviate that very congested academic section of campus. It’s the perfect location.

The upper playing fields’ improvements are another student-desired proposal.

In a survey completed by almost 700 students last year, 68 percent of students said OU should invest in improving the upper fields as the plan described and 64 percent said they would use the fields regularly for their recreation.

The proposal includes a running track, eight tennis courts and a number of turf fields, meaning that OU’s track and field and tennis teams no longer need to practice at local high school facilities. This initiative has been a long time coming, but well deserved on many fronts.

An important consideration in introducing these proposals is how students’ pocketbooks will be affected. There are a number of ways in which students can receive more but pay less for these projects. The housing building’s construction will be funded by the housing department, which is separate from student’s tuition, but the parking and upper play fields are part of general fund expenditures.

From initial plans, the Upper Fields would be maintained through the Department of Recreation and Athletics — also separate from students’ tuition.

Although the construction costs of the upper playing fields and parking structure will fall on the students, much is being done to reduce this cost.

First, the student representatives at the BOT meetings advocated for a fee-free parking facility, which reduces the massive long term cost of regulating and issuing parking passes or other technology/personnel necessary for such procedures. It was also advocated that the costs should be rolled into tuition, which would maintain OU’s competitive tuition with “no fees”. This makes it easier for students that are planning to study at OU and need to consider the costs involved.

Regardless, with the $65 million in new expenditures approved in Tuesday’s meeting, students can expect a minimum of 1.5 percent increase to tuition next year that will be carried over through the next 30 some years. Fortunately, students can find resolve because a total tuition increase this summer will not exceed Governor Snyder’s 4 percent cap, which the BOT and administration agreed upon.

The housing, parking and upper play fields proposals are altogether a well-coordinated plan that addresses the largest student concerns, some of which have been building-up over the past several years.

These improvements will greatly contribute to student life, the growth of our university, and the value every graduate holds in their diploma. We, as student representatives, are excited for the future.

Jessica Drogowski and Benjamin Eveslage are Student Liaisons to the Board of Trustees. Email them at [email protected] and [email protected]