Questioning the president
Students challenge hot topics
J. Fred Fox | reporter
More than 100 students filled a lecture room in the Crimson and Gold Ballroom to listen to Steve Scott, univeristy president, answer questions.
Questions taken on Wednesday night, March 27, ranged from budget, tuition and fee questions, to the introduction of the Baby Gus mascot, to Scott’s favorite thing that he has don
e as university president.
Shawn Naccarato, director of government and community relations, spoke on his work in Topeka with legislators on higher-education funding as they prepare a state budget for the year.
“Our line from the very start has been no cuts to higher education,” Naccarato said. “Cuts to higher education damage the economy and do not match up to the roadmap the governor has for the state.”
The state House is proposing an 8 percent cut, which results in about a $50 million dollar cut across the board. The state Senate is proposing a 2 percent cut, which will cut Pittsburg State’s funding by about $700,000, Naccarato said.
“So, every day, I’m telling the story of why we cannot handle such a cut because we do not want to pass those cuts on to the students,” Naccarato said.
The Senate’s proposed cut of 2 percent, in the current situation facing the university, represents the best-case scenario, Naccarato said.
“Bottom line is, we’re very concerned with what’s happening in Topeka,” Scott said. “We feel like we have a lot of momentum that is threatened by these cuts. John Patterson is working on a tuition proposal that will deal with the $700,000 cut. Back in the early ‘90s, the state funded about 75 percent of the costs of our institution and students paid the other 25 percent in tuition. We are heading toward a point when students will be paying more than half the institution’s budget.”
One student found the information helpful.
“I ended up learning about the university’s efforts to fight budget issues, especially at the state level,” said Austin Crumrine, freshman in mechanical engineering.
Scott was also questioned on the feasibility of investing abroad to international students.
“We have a consistent 400-500 enrollment rate for international students,” he said. “They pay out-of-state tuition rates. They write bigger checks. They pay far more than a basic domestic student pays. They also allow our students to go to their institutions in those countries for free in exchange for their students here,” Scott said.
The international students expand American students’ horizons, according to Lynette Olson, university provost.
“It helps to open up minds to the culture and things going on around the world that affect us,” she said.
Students also asked about what PSU is doing to combat violence coming onto campus, and the university’s response to these dangers.
“Clearly, the No. 1 priority for us is safety,” Scott said. “That’s probably the thing that keeps me up nights … that would worry me the most is gun violence on campus.”
Steve Erwin, associate vice president of campus life and auxiliary services, talked about how on any given day, there are more than 18 million college students active on over 6,000 college campuses nationwide. He said that there is a slim risk posed to PSU of a violent attack.
“Our threat assessment team on campus is very active in working to prevent an act of violence and not only to respond after the event,” he said.
Scott talked about his most memorable moment as president.
“Graduation that occurs every year; I’m crazy about the first day of school, but there was a moment that I got to stand at a microphone and announce that the Walton family founda tion was contributing $5 million to the PSU performing arts building and that the gift was in my brother’s name,” Scott said. He was referring to H. Lee Scott, who was CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for 10 years, and retired in 2011.
One student says he found the information presented at the meeting to be unexpectedly beneficial.
“I was forced to go to the event by my fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha,” said Brady Lowther, junior in communication. “But I ended up really enjoying learning more about the performing arts center and just the overall effort by the university to keep students informed instead of in the dark.”
One student questioned the loss of a good atmosphere when tailgating at football games because of a new policy and its effect on the university.
“The question comes down to having to have alcohol to have a good time, because when we remove the alcohol the party stopped; evidently, that’s critical to that environment taking place,” Scott said. “That first game was not a game we ever want to repeat. That was unacceptable behavior at Pittsburg State University. We cannot allow that to ever occur again. We put forth a policy that we believe can ensure the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.”
Jim Johnson, athletic director, says he believes that the change in the tailgate policy led to the best environment inside the stadium Pitt State has ever had.
Scott spoke on concerns of costs of the new mascot, whether it’s the $4,000 costume or paying the mascot to attend events.
Johnson explained the difficulty of having someone actually being the mascot and how it would be much more difficult with another mascot. Chris Kelly, associate vice president for university marketing and communication, expressed concern about the importance of PSU’s branding.
“Gus IS Pittsburg State University. There are a lot of lions, tigers and even bearcats but there’s only one gorilla,” Kelly said.
Erwin fielded a question concerning the shortage of on-campus housing for students. Erwin stated that Pitt State is planning some additional housing within the university’s master 10-year plan.