Students voice concerns over budget cuts

Posted on 10 October 2017 by Ian Schrauth

Speakers, board members butt heads during open forum section of Board of Trustees meeting

 

By: Tania Robin
Staff Writer

 

The Student Social Action Committee (SSAC) represented Meramec’s student body at the Sept. 28 Board of Trustees meeting at the Harrison Education Center in north St. Louis.1

Over 50 STLCC students made an appearance at the public forum, a much larger turnout than the board was expecting, evidenced by the lack of available space in the meeting room. An overflow room allowed those who could not be accommodated in the first room to watch the meeting via live television feed with a two minute audio delay. Chancellor Pittman was surprised at the turnout and said in a later interview that he was happy students want to be informed and involved in the
school’s proceedings.

“It’s very important for students to participate in the college’s government structure,” said Pittman. “Their input was very much appreciated by the trustees and myself.”

Members of SSAC were given the opportunity to speak alongside faculty during the open floor portion at the end of the board meeting. Most students addressed fears in reference to Chancellor Pittman’s summer announcement that the budget cuts will likely result in a reduction of full-time faculty.

“I’m here to represent all students and faculty who can’t be here today,” said SSAC president Xavier Phillips. “All we are asking is that you do what’s right. Don’t do what’s easy. Make the right choice.”

Student Emily Calton spent three to four hours protesting after class for several weeks leading up to the meeting. Calton said it was important to help educate other students about budget cuts, program cuts and how professors will lose their jobs.

“My professors inspire all the students and myself to reach for the stars and to work hard for the education we deserve. [They] truly care about what they teach and the ways they teach,” said Calton. “That’s why I’m here, on behalf of my professors and
my school.”

Music student Amber Buckner, who commuted three hours to attend the meeting, couldn’t attend school in person this fall due to a recent surgery. She told the board about how her professors accommodated her medical needs and helped her start the semester remotely. Prior to the meeting, Buckner created flyers encouraging other students to attend in order to help their professors and save the education they love and depend on.

“At Meramec, the college feels like a warm community. The professors give students hope, inspiration, and makes them see they can succeed,” said Buckner.

Buckner’s mother, Kathy Buckner, attended the meeting alongside her daughter. Kathy Buckner is a Meramec alumna who met her husband at Meramec. She spoke to the board about how STLCC plays a central role in the community, but also brought to the attention of the entire room that some board members were preoccupied during the meeting.

“You really bother me that you’re not even giving some of the faculty members the courtesy of paying attention,” said Kathy Buckner. “You’re in charge…and you can’t even give people the respect to pay attention? To your own staff? That’s kind of disgusting
in my opinion.”

Chancellor Pittman responded to the incident in an interview. He said that he had heard a student quote an incorrect statistic during the forum and was attempting to find the source of the misinformation.

“One student said we were going to cut 70 percent of full-time faculty,” said Pittman. “Where are they getting that information? Who’s saying these kinds of things? It was more of how do we get to the bottom of this confusion. It just wasn’t accurate and I assume it came from somewhere.”

Pittman said he did not intend to appear rude, and called the incident, “a good etiquette lesson.”

Several speakers later Chairwoman Doris Graham paused the forum to announce that she had received a handwritten note from a fellow board member. The note, which she held up for the audience to see, said that many of the speeches were “redundant.” She then said that normally they would end speeches at that point but today she would allow the remaining nine speakers their turns.

“One of the trustees thought we’re hearing the same things over and over again and was trying to make it more streamlined, saying if you have anything new to say it would be more valuable. The trustee was just trying to expedite,” said Pittman.

Amber Buckner said she was hurt by the statement.

“I didn’t think that was necessary for the trustees to share that handwritten note with their audience who spent time speaking to them just moments ago,” said Amber Buckner.

Calton was also upset by the behavior of the Board of Trustees. In addition to phone use and the note, she also said that board members responded to speakers in a “rude tone.”

“It was very immature of them,” said Calton. “We sat there for two hours and listened to them. They couldn’t even listen for two minutes.”

The meeting officially ended after three and a half hours. The board thanked students for attending and sharing their experience. Chancellor Pittman suggested students organize themselves in Jefferson City to “show our governor why STLCC needs to stay the way it is for students, faculty and future students.” He also suggested calling or writing to representatives.

“I’d be willing to work with [SSAC]. How we communicate with legislators is important and I can craft language for them to communicate in a professional manner,” said Pittman. “We need to channel this passion into helping our legislators understand how important STLCC is to St. Louis.”

 

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