Students voice their concerns to Board of Regents president
Anisa Jibrell – News Writer
Students gathered in the Adanti Student Center ballroom on Monday, Dec. 1 to voice their concerns to the recently appointed president of the Board of Regents, Mark Ojakian.
The former governor’s chief-of-staff addressed the public debate surrounding the proposed labor contract by the Board of Regents, but could not comment on specifics.
“I know there’s been a lot of public clamor about this issue and it’s unfortunate because ordinarily you don’t have public discussions about specific proposals in a collective bargaining arena so this is unique,” said Ojakian, “but I can adjust and adapt to every situation.”
Ojakian said it’s unfortunate that the board’s initial proposals were not fully vetted before, and a request for an extension was denied for a “number of reasons.” His first official day was Sept. 28, and the full exchange of proposals was due on Oct. 1.
Deleting every component of the faculty contract is not the goal, according to Ojakian, it’s a matter of working with the resources available, being flexible, and having tough conversations with labor leaders.
“It’s not the ideal to have increased class sizes but when you have a limited about of dollars, which we do, and we’re about to probably cut again,” said Ojakian, “as the legislature and the government grapples with the deficit for this year, where is that going to come from?”
Despite these hurdles, Ojakian said he would not approve a contract that would balance the financial burden on the backs of the students.
“I want to maintain as many services as we can for students so that’s why faculty and administration need to come together and come up with a solution that benefits the students,” said Ojakian.
“I think we need to give people the tools to do research and to foster an environment where people can embark on other activities other than just day-to-day instruction,” said Ojakian. “I think that conversation needs to happen within a larger conversation around how do we afford to do things now, because we are getting less state dollars than we have in the past, so every time we see an increase in wages we have to see an increase in tuition.”
One student voiced her concern about the diversity of the faculty, and asked whether there were any plans to have the diversity of the faculty match the diversity of the students in the future.
“I think we have to do a better job of recruiting faculty that represents diverse backgrounds,” said Ojakian, “and we can take a system look at that.”
Ojakian said promoting diversity and social justice across CSU campuses is on his next agenda.
Also on his agenda is figuring out a way to reduce the rising costs of textbooks. Ojakian plans on meeting with the bookstore advisory board and the vendor in early January to discuss ways the vendor can reduce the cost for students and increase what is returned to students when they return the book, or find alternative ways of providing those textbooks.
“If they can’t be cooperative then we’ll just go find another vendor to market textbooks that could be more cooperative with the universities,” said Ojakian, “because it’s too high and I don’t really see why it needs to be so high, so I’m going to be a pain in the butt at that meeting.”
Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai – Photo Editor