Dear President Ruben Armiñana,
Before we tell you our opinion of your proposal of an Academic Success Fee, you should know – if you don’t already – that it would appear a large majority of this campus is rooting against you.
Regardless of whether or not good intentions lie behind this fee (which has been estimated to be around $500 a year and would supposedly guarantee a shorter time to graduate by funding more professors, classes and advising services, and would reportedly outweigh the cost of spending more years here), many students and faculty members, from what we hear, are simply sick to death of these fees. They don’t feel like they should fork over even more money for a quality education, especially since they’re already paying the highest tuition in Sonoma State history. They don’t think the administration is representing – or even considering – their best interests.
They don’t trust you.
To be fair, there’s a good chance that some of these people haven’t done their research. They haven’t read all the coverage about the budget, talked to every constituent involved in this process, or sat in on every meeting and information session this campus has held in an effort to educate themselves about what this proposed fee would do.
But that doesn’t change the fact that students are starting to really care about this. They’re blowing up in their classrooms, blogs and social media about how angry they are.
The fee isn’t a sure thing, and it’s not until next week that you reportedly will decide to either go through alternative consultation or drop discussions of the fee altogether. But if you do attempt to implement the fee by alternative consultation and not by campus-wide vote, students are likely to become even more outraged that they’ve been left out of the process.
Maybe you don’t mind if the campus is angry, just as long as they receive access to the classes necessary to get them to graduate sooner. And you may be right.
But what good are those extra classes going to be when students can no longer afford to come here? Why should they take out more loans to cover the fee when they can easily go someplace else?
We can’t tell you how to do your job, because we clearly don’t know what it feels like to be the president of a small public university campus in the middle of a budget crisis. We don’t know what it’s like to earn six figures, be responsible for large decisions that can impact more than 9,000 people at a time, and be both berated and celebrated about these decisions by all walks of life on this campus.
What we do know is that many of us aspire to have an exciting, worthwhile and fulfilling career like yours someday, and the only way we’ll get there is with a college education. And we chose to get that education at a public university, hoping that the reason why it’s cheaper than private colleges is because California knows we’re carrying its future on our backs. We’re already committing to work for the majority of our lives with these degrees – we don’t need to prolong that commitment by deepening our personal debt.
We also know you have a heart, empathy and common sense. You say diversity will be maintained if this fee is implemented, but we all know that simply isn’t true. As president for almost 12 years, you – more than anyone – should be appreciating the growth of the culture, diversity, and pride at this campus. Implementing this fee and making a degree much less affordable would shatter all of those things, as more than half of Sonoma State students receive financial assistance and would be deeply affected if they have to pay more.
You’re right in telling us that the state won’t be helping us out of this deficit anytime soon, but you’re wrong in asserting there’s no other way out.
If someone wants to spend the money to speed up their time here, they can do so without dragging the rest of the campus along. They can commit their own time and money to take summer and winter classes. They can knock out GEs at junior colleges. They can make an effort to see as many advisors as possible the first week of their freshman year to decide on a major. They can create seven different registration back-up plans if their first six don’t follow through.
But making it mandatory to pay an estimated $2,000 more for a degree isn’t the right answer. It may sound good to you, but it doesn’t sound good to thousands of others – the ones who are actually paying to be here.
So, if it isn’t obvious already, we don’t think you should implement this fee. We agree it would be much nicer to have more classes, professors and advising, but now’s not the right time.
In short: “No, thank you.”