Editorial: The gap between administration, students needs to be bridged

As the academic year comes to its conclusion, the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly coming into focus. Whether you are sprinting or crawling to it, at some point within the next week or so, you will have reached it. Congratulations.

This is the last weekly issue the Oakland Post will print this semester. News will continue to be published online, though, and a print issue will still come out once a month during the summer.

Man, time flies.

As we reflect on our coverage provided throughout the last eight months or so, there is one recurring theme that frequented our paper.

From news coverage, to columns, editorials and letters to the editor, the lack of transparency displayed by our university’s administration in its decision-making processes created tensions that seem to still be lingering around campus.

This repeated offense committed by administration this year began with an 8.4 percent tuition raise over summer that was primarily done behind closed doors and lacked any student input.

It was followed by the creation and hiring of a chief operating officer near the end of last semester. The campus community was completely unaware that this role was being made and filled. In addition to this, no national search was conducted. The only person who was even interviewed for the job, which has an annual salary of $325,000, was the man who currently holds the position, who’s also a former board of trustees’ member at OU.

Then, the board of trustees held a closed door meeting in Florida during its retreat that took place prior to the Winter College event in February, which student tuition dollars paid for. The two student liaisons to the board were not invited on the trip. No minutes from the meeting that took place in Florida were provided.

And finally, it was announced about two weeks ago that student employment hours during the fall and winter semesters of the 2016-17 school year will be reduced by five hours. This was a decision made in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act, but it wasn’t the only option Oakland had.

Other universities comply by reducing summer hours — Oakland allows students to work 40 hours in the summer — or only allowing students to work 29 hours a week year-round to prevent them from going over the 30-hour average that would require the university to provide students with healthcare.

But, we are left in the dark on whether those alternatives were given any thought or consideration because students weren’t involved in the decision to cut hours, according to OUSC President Zack Thomas.  

At the end of the day, administration is going to do what it feels needs to be done. Whether these decisions are for better or worse can be argued, but one thing that can’t be argued is the unethical manner in which decisions were made this year that just widened the gap between administration and students.

Change needs to be made before the gap becomes so large and tensions become so high that extreme measures are taken, like petitions, rallies and office sit-ins that have already been brought up by Thomas’ OUSC administration, which will hold office during the 2016-17 school year.

The board of trustees needs to stop holding closed-door meetings altogether. Regardless of whether decisions are being made in such meetings, the secrecy is still not acceptable.

Also, administration needs to be more open with its decision and allow for student and campus community input through open forums or town hall meetings. There’s a huge lack of understanding between both groups, but the open discussion could aid both groups in understanding one another.

One of the five objectives set by Thomas and Vice President Anders Engnell is to fight for administrative transparency and accountability. Although I have confidence in their ability to accomplish this, they can’t do it alone.

It’s going to require effort from administration, and it’s also going to require effort from current Golden Grizzlies to push for change as well.

Regardless, we cannot stop fighting for transparency.

Staying silent makes us equally as guilty as those acting in this way because we are allowing it to happen.

So speak up.