On Thursday, April 11, a public student forum was held in Alumni Hall for students to attend and discuss issues and concerns that have riddled the college as of late. The panel consisted of Presidential Cabinet members, Provost and Dean of the College Mark Braun, Vice President for Institutional Advancement Tom Young, Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Tom Crady, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students JoNes VanHecke, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Ken Westphal, Vice President for Marketing and Communication Tim Kennedy, and College President Jack Ohle. The forum was mediated by Student Senate members Seniors Tasha Ostendorf and Jessye Flannery.
The structure of the student forum allowed for students in the audience to anonymously ask questions for the panel to answer collectively or individually according to their concentrations and roles on campus. The formal panel discussion featured an array of concerning topics, including but not limited to tuition, financial aid, on/off-campus housing, enrollment, upcoming renovations, Divestment and administrative spending. Among the concerns addressed include:
On tuition and endowment:
“It’s a huge issue. It’s one that I think a lot about. Prior to the current increase, there have been increases of 5 percent or more. This is the first year where we have successfully made it 3.5 percent. We have to control costs on campus and ensure comprehensive fees are low. We can’t have a larger endowment, but if we can bring in students who can pay the bill, they can allow us to use that money for other students in need,” Crady said.
On financial aid:
“I think it’s appropriate to be very forthright with you. We work very hard and will come close to giving away close to 50 million in financial aid. I have always said to students, ‘If you have a need that we haven’t been able to meet or your circumstances have changed, see [Dean of Financial Aid] Doug Minter and the Financial Aid Office, and they will ratchet that up for you,” Ohle said.
On the accuracy of representations of diversity in the view books:
“Do we over represent or underrepresent diversities in our view books and public images? No, we don’t. We know the percentages and keep track of student demographics, and we try very hard to make sure that is who we represent,” Kennedy said.
On off-campus housing:
“Even though there’s a big class of first year-students, we have space in residential halls for upper class students. We not only try to anticipate the number of incoming students, we really believe students have a better college experiences when they are on campus. It’s hard to be involved and engaged off-campus. Gusties, by definition are super involved human beings. We want as many Gusties to live on campus as we can accommodate. It’s our best educated guess on what those numbers will look like, and we try to be as smart as we can on the front end,” VanHecke said.
On faculty salary:
“We set a target back in 1995, that we wanted to pay our schools at the American Association of University
Professors (AAUP) level one category, which is the highest. The AAUP lets us look at our peer colleges and compare. We got close ten years ago, but, currently, our professors are getting paid $20,000 less than the average of their peers around the country,” Braun said.
“We have made the decision to not cut the number of faculty or staff, but to increase enrollment [in hopes of] increasing funding in the upcoming years to adequately meet the national average in salary for the faculty,” Ohle said.
On the sustainability of Gustavus:
“Yes, there is a tremendous commitment to climate, and that is something we can all agree on. We hoped to have wind energy, and planned up to the final part when the rug was pulled out from under us. We were informed that the county does not allow for any wind turbines in be within a half mile of a home. However, if you look around campus, to the rooftops of Beck and the Campus Center, there’s much more solar energy conservation than there has been in previous years. Also, we are waiting to hear back from a proposal for LEED certification on Beck. We are hoping to receive a platinum LEED level, which is the highest level,” Ohle said.
On the Star Tribune article discussing the tone of Jack Ohle’s tenure at Gustavus and the question of his resignation:
“You will find that as you go through life there are times where it is very difficult for communication, and the important thing we want all Gusties to know is that people are listening people do care,’ Ohle said. ‘I believe in a liberal arts world, that you are getting the best education for life, not just a job. You are being prepared to think and be challenged, just like some faculty are questioning me, and just like I’m questioning them. The faculty and staff will discuss and debate, and that’s good. Remember, however, you are here to study and to get your degree. Let this stuff go on. There are more important things in your lives to worry over,” Ohle said.