Students coordinate charter forum
At the Charter Act Forum sponsored by the First-Year Council Executive Board last night, students expressed questions and concerns about the proposed charter initiative.
Jan Cornell, president of the Staff Union at the University of Virginia, and Alex Stolar, chair of Legislative Affairs for Student Council, both spoke at the event.
"We thought it'd be a good idea to show legislators what we think of the act, especially for first years because we'll be the most affected by it," said organizer Laura E. Hussey, the director of legislative affairs for First-Year Council.
Around 20 students attended the event. Many personally knew the speakers or organizers.
Cornell opened the event saying that she was not for or against the charter, but thought that there was a need for more discussion.
"This is a radical, big piece of legislature that will affect the workers here, students, parents, everybody," Cornell said. "My role is not to be against it, but to worry about the effects of the charter. We don't know how this is going to affect anyone."
She said she was primarily concerned with the treatment of University employees under the initiative.
"I'm not sure that Thomas Jefferson would want a public institution to almost not be public anymore," Cornell said. University employees "wouldn't be public employees, but they wouldn't be in the private sector either -- they'd be on the fence."
Cornell encouraged students to write legislators expressing their feelings about the initiative.
When Stolar took the podium, he emphasized the unanimous Student Council vote in favor of the initiative.
"We believe that the Board of Visitors should be able to do its job," Stolar said. "What Thomas Jefferson essentially said is that he wanted the University to be governed by the body corporate."
Stolar said that due to the University's consistent underfunding, he believed the initiative would adequately fund University programs and raise the quality of the institution. He also said the University's new program, Access U.Va., would continue to provide financially needy students with the money required in order to ensure that U.Va. remained affordable under the charter initiative.
For those able to pay, though, Stolar acknowledged that tuition would increase substantially.
"Your class will see those benefits," Stolar said. "You'll also be paying for it. However, I know that tuition rates are going up either way."
During the question and answer session following the presentations, students asked questions about diversity, specifics of the charter and potential application decline. Most questions concerned the proposed tuition increases.
"If tuition is going to increase that much, I might as well go to a private school," said first-year College student Kim Leonard.
Stolar did not dispute the potential tuition increases, yet said that the quality of the University would increase in turn. However, Cornell said she doubted the quality of the institution would grow to reflect potential tuition raises.
"All this is going to be on the back of you all, and the back of the employees," Cornell said. "And U.Va. is no Harvard, and it never will be."