The University: serving the students?

When University policies should tailor more to student desires

Recently, University students received the opportunity to vote on their choice of three proposals offered for the 2015 – and potentially 2016 – graduation ceremonies. Discussions around Grounds did not seem to indicate particular excitement about any of the three options. I do believe the University tried its hardest to construct the best options for graduation, given the unfortunate timeframe of the Rotunda renovations.

What remains to be seen, however, is the degree to which the University will listen to the student vote. After polling some of my friends and creepily eavesdropping on conversations around Grounds, I don’t believe I’ve heard a single student voice their approval for Option 3 — the proposed Final Exercises in which students will graduate at Scott Stadium.

Though I am not a member of the class of 2015 or 2016 and, therefore, not directly affected by the administration’s final decision, I still have a strong opinion on the matter and I agree with many other students that graduating at Scott Stadium would be less than ideal. Graduating on the Lawn is a unique and traditional aspect of calling oneself a University graduate and taking this tradition away would be disappointing.

Even if the overwhelming majority of the student body decides they wish to graduate on the Lawn, will the University be inclined to listen? Frighteningly enough, it would make a lot of sense for the University to graduate its students in the stadium.

By ensuring that ceremonies take place only on one day, the University would cut costs. Furthermore, with the Scott Stadium option offering an unlimited number of tickets to the ever-growing number of graduates, the University and businesses in Charlottesville would welcome the increased revenue and larger crowds in town for the weekend. I can’t help but wonder how often and to what degree the priorities of the students match those of their school.

Though its primary function is to provide more than 20,000 students with an education, the University must also act as a business. It must run a smart budget to best provide services for students, while pleasing the right people to continue gaining valuable endowments.

When limited amounts of money are on the table, how often can the University choose to do what its students want instead of what may serve the school best financially?

For example, when the University cut funding for its AccessUVa program, I do not think I heard a single student voice support for the decision. As a first-year living in the ever-luxurious “Old Dorms,” I find the construction of state-of-the-art dorms unnecessary — an inclusive and diverse student body doing more to serve the school.

The significance lies not in the issue but in what the decision represents. Does the University care more about spending money to increase its rankings and prestige, or about the support of its students?

I don’t pretend to know how to best run a university. I recognize the administration faces the difficult task of pleasing as many parties as possible, and sometimes our best interests may not align with what we want.

Still, when the University announces its intentions for the 2015 Final Exercises, I will be very interested to see if the University truly values student input or whether we’re just along for the ride.

Aidan’s column runs biweekly Fridays. He can be reached at a.cochrane@cavalierdaily.com.


Published April 24, 2014 in Life





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