Decision is made on $4.8 million

By Web Master

By NICK DEGEL

Campus Editor

After six months of speculation, meetings and opinions, a resolution has been confirmed for the spending of the nearly $4.8 million deferred August payment.

The Oakland University Board of Trustees approved the plan submitted by Vice President of Finance and Administration and Treasurer John Beaghan at their April 15 meeting.

The payment will be allocated through a direct payment to the students and six other capital projects set to benefit the educational experience at OU.

“I think this is a great plan,” Beaghan said. “I think students felt a credit back to them was necessary so we have done that, which accounts for about a quarter of [the payment].”

Direct payment to the students will arrive in the form of a reimbursement for the charge for orientation. This accounts for $1,139,424 of the $4,764,454 deferred payment, and will include average refunds of $81 for about 14,000 students who registered and paid for orientation Fall 2007 or Winter 2008.

According to Beaghan, the long process of creating the plan involved multiple meetings with student leadership, tours of academic labs and the involvement of the cabinet and board leadership. Completion of the plan was contingent on getting a better picture of the financial climate in Lansing, as it pertains to OU.

“We feel more confident that the state budget will not result in a mid-year cut,” Beaghan said.

Former student president Rob Meyer, along with student liaisons Samir Hanna and Aaron Kochenderfer, was very involved in bringing the students’ ideas to the forefront of the debate surrounding the payment’s allocation.

“I think it’s great that the university and the administration was able to take the students input and work with us hand in hand in actually coming up with ideas of what to do with this money,” Meyer said.

Part of this involvement included student feedback from last month’s OU Student Congress elections. Of the 1,486 students who voted, 1,006 voted for a full direct student refund of the entire sum.

“I originally aimed for the full refund but, obviously, that didn’t happen,” Meyer said. “I think that the administration didn’t think it would be responsible of them to actually give us a full refund because they felt there were other things necessary to do with that money on campus.”

At the time of publication, the president’s office had been contacted but had not yet responded.

The six capital projects include renovation of instructional laboratories, improvements in classroom technology, renovations to Dodge Hall, moving Career Services into North Foundation Hall, an upgrade of the Center for Student Activities, and upgrades for the art and art history studios.

As it is outlined in the plan, 18 academic labs have been identified as priorities to receive renovations or improvements, including complete renovations of the chemistry, biology and physics labs. These will account for $2 million of the delayed payment.

Moving Career Services to North Foundation Hall will account for $800,000 of the proposed budget according to the official plan.

“It’s going to bring in a lot of other [students] that wouldn’t have initially used [Career Services] when it was in Vandenberg,” Hanna said. “Now, if students don’t have a job … they can come back and say ‘Hey, Career Services, I need some help.'”

The art and art history studios, located on the bottom floor of Wilson Hall, will receive their first upgrades since 1975, to the tune of $305,030. To better accommodate the 160 student organizations at OU, the CSA office will receive $200,000 of the budget for upgrades.

A high-traffic area surrounding the Dodge Hall lecture rooms will receive a $52,000 revamp, which will include new furnishings, an LCD TV and whiteboards.

Though a resolution has finally been settled upon for a matter first brought to the table in October 2007, it does not mean that the final decision was an easy one. Trustee Dennis Pawley touched on this before a packed room for the formal Board of Trustees meeting.

“This really has been a tough decision,” Pawley said. “The $4.8 million is not a windfall from Lansing, it was a payment that was taken away from us.”