Forum with leaders draws few students


Joe Scott/The Daily Iowan
(From left) UI Student Government President Michael Currie, UI President Sally Mason, and Provost Wallace Loh address student questions about budget issues during a forum in the IMU on Wednesday.
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Few students attended the UI Student Government’s first open forum Wednesday evening, to which students had been invited to address their tuition concerns to UI President Sally Mason and Provost Wallace Loh.

Fewer than 20 students attended the forum, but Loh said he was still pleased with the outcome of the night.

“A real audience is an active audience,” Loh said. “ The size is irrelevant.”

UISG President Michael Currie said many factors, including lack of advertising and date selection, contributed to the low student turnout.

Mason greeted the handful of students with a basic synopsis of the university’s current financial situation. She discussed goals to maintain faculty and teaching positions as well as the university’s educational quality. She plans to meet these goals with her recommendation for a 6 percent tuition hike as well as a mid-year $100 surcharge for UI students, she said.

“We think a $100 surcharge is a reasonable request,” she said. “A 6 percent tuition increase would generate roughly $18 million for the university’s general education fund.”

The money brought in through student charges doesn’t come close to the roughly $65 million the university was forced to cut this year. Mason said her goal was to avoid asking students to make up the cuts, but to do their part in sharing the burden to help the university sustain its academic programs and faculty.

The floor was then opened to student questions, when one UI senior asked how the university will help students who might have trouble affording the $100 spring surcharge.

Mason said students facing financial burden who receive PELL grants or other need-based financial aid would be exempt from the extra fee.

UI senior Samantha Malloy asked Mason about her potential bonus. Mason, who refrained from taking what the state Board of Regents refer to as incentive pay this year, said taking that type of compensation would be inappropriate given the economic times, noting the performance-based pay was not described as a “bonus” in her original contract.

“I think it was informative,” Malloy said. “It was good to be here and listen to the plans they have.”

But Malloy did express concerns with the mid-year surcharge, despite Mason’s rationale.

Mason also addressed concerns that many teaching assistant positions could be cut.

She said the university is not looking to cut any TA positions and will hold up the commitments they have made to graduate students, but noted the university doesn’t have the funds to fill all vacant positions next year.

Two additional forums have been scheduled for February and March of 2010, and Currie said he is hopeful student turnout will be higher. UISG officials plan to pursue better marketing strategies for future forum events, he said.

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