Students speak out

Tuition hike, bad food and not enough parking were the topics of the latest open forum organized by the Student Government Association which hosted around 30 students on Thursday, Nov. 17.

WCU senior Micheal Sapp listens closely while fellow students share their opinions.

SGA President, TJ Eaves began the evening with introductions and quickly moved into discussing the proposed increase of tuition and fees for the 2012-13 school year. Western Carolina University undergraduate tuition is predicted to increase by 17.34 percent, a total of $520. This increase is also expected to continue at the same rate over the next five years.

“I think that’s outrageous,” said Eaves. “There’s this big catch up [for WCU to pay the same amount as other public institutions], so normally we can do 6.5 percent. We all know that our university has been cut and we were going to give it 6.5 percent, then they come back with this 17 and I’m just like is this really going to happen? But more than likely something close to that number is going to happen.”

Eaves also informed the student body that if the new proposed tuition increase is approved, it would continue increasing nearly $1,300 total over the next five years. He suggested that these increases start smaller and gradually increase in order to better prepare incoming freshman and ease the burden for current students.

“What about a freshman now? They are going to have to pay this for the next three years and they had no clue,” said Eaves.

The next topic of discussion was dining services’ proposed increase of 3.99 percent for meal plans in order to keep the upstairs dining hall in Courtyard open until 2 a.m. along with another restaurant downstairs or in A.K. Hinds University Center. While this may seem to be a good idea, students were disappointed to hear that it would be upstairs dining rather than more retail food stores.

“When I talked to [Aramark] today they said what would you rather have and everybody said we’d rather have the retail than the upstairs,” said Alex Burdine, a senior communication major at WCU. “There’s really no way to promote the upstairs staying open that late and they’re going to lose way more money having the upstairs stay open on a Saturday night than they ever would anywhere else.”

When Eaves asked students if they were having trouble with the food quality, the students replied in unison that the food was not meeting their standards, nor was the service of Aramark’s directors. He also suggested keeping those leaders in check with ideas such as a secret diner.

“They have a contract and they get to where they think that they don’t have to do anything, then all of a sudden the contract comes back up in negotiation and the quality of food goes back up and then as soon as they sign the contract, BAM, it goes back down,” said Eaves.

Students were unhappy with the way they are being forced to wait in order to be served a certain type of food when they are eating in the upstairs dining hall of Courtyard. When making the transition from one meal time to the next, students say servers take as long as possible to get the next food items ready to be served, or if the food is ready servers will just let the food sit under a heating lamp and will not let students eat it until it is the set time of management.

“Here is what’s important,” said Eaves. “You know you can tell them this because you literally pay the bills, nobody else does. You pay for their salary, the food you’re eating and the building you’re eating at.”

Michael Sapp, senior computer information systems major at WCU said he filled out surveys for two years and never received a response from Aramark.

“I did the surveys for two years and I saw two of mine never put up because of probably how bad they were, but then nothing was ever done about them,” said Sapp. “I put my phone number on them every single time, my email address every single time and I have never gotten any correspondence until I had to go and complain about one of their employees because she was telling us to leave when they’re not suppose to.”

Along with the anger about the unacceptable service and food quality of Aramark and dining services, parking was another topic of discussion that caused students to sit up in their seats. The proposed increase for a parking permit is $1 per month, making the total increase $12. Students less than agreed for several reasons. One being not all students are at WCU for 12 months of the year.  Another was there are not enough parking spaces available to make this increase ethical. Eaves stated that the only way an increase would be acceptable is if they give students more parking spaces.

Administration is tossing around the idea of building a new parking lot next to the brand new health and human science building across the street from campus. In order to get students back to campus from this new parking facility, a Cat Tran would have to drive back and forth, but students have not been pleased with the hours of operation on the weekends since they stop operation extremely early on Friday and Sunday and not do run at all on Saturdays.

On a much lighter note, Eaves talked about the Power of Purple Challenge which is competition between long time rival Appalachian State to see which school is more athletically gifted throughout the entire year. The mission of the challenge is not only to have an increased attendance at all sporting events against ASU, but to develop pride in students for WCU and show an increased support for the student athletes who are playing.

As student filed out, Eaves talked about how he felt the forum went.

“Tonight was very beneficial for SGA,” Said Eaves. “We received a lot of feedback and comments and concerns about things on campus that we already knew were an issue and a lot of things that we didn’t know were an issue and we’ll be able to take that forward. We really appreciate all the comments everybody had here today. They were very vocal and all of them had thoughts that were very valuable.”


The date of the next forum has yet to be announced.