On March 12, the Montclair State University administration sent out an email announcing its annual tuition hearing, where the board of trustees will review and discuss students’ comments regarding tuition and activity fees for the 2021-22 academic year. The deadline for comment submission was listed as April 2.
At a glance, this seems a nice enough gesture. Then again, so did the last several cordial invitations to fill out a survey, email a comment or provide input.
There was no advertised date in the email regarding this upcoming hearing nor was there one last year. Clearly, a virtual meeting is taking place, but the student body has been shut out.
This lack of a concrete assembly is far from reassuring in what has amounted to the most uncertain time in the lives of many students as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. If there is one thing the pandemic has somewhat simplified, it’s large group meetings, like hearings or town halls.
So why does the student body, whose money the administration accepts year after year, find itself a step removed from this obviously important meeting?
As stressful as college is, it provides invaluable stability and routine for those of us stuck in the grueling transition between “young adult” and “adult.” The most worrying aspect for the average student is cost and the lengths students go to in order to fund their education is a testament to how much they value higher learning.
Since the onset of COVID-19, a raise in tuition price tags is less justifiable than ever before. The once sought-after college experience has been reduced to long hours of sitting in front of a laptop, coping with blue-light fatigue and mindlessly refreshing vaccine update pages.
To add insult to injury, the student body is now obliged to indirectly appeal to the board of trustees for some semblance of relief, a collective entity who might as well reside on Mount Olympus, given their remoteness. This reads as a performative gesture at best and promises little to no real change.
Reading a strongly-worded email or watching a prerecorded video will never have the same effect as someone speaking directly to you. The administration must know that. It is easier to ignore the pressure applied by an increasingly restless crowd if they are held at a safe distance.
This meeting is not beneficial to students and it isn’t intended to serve their needs.
Montclair State students demand action beyond a mere acknowledgment of their struggle, not more punitive actions and empty promises.
Students are told their opinions matter, their feelings considered. When exactly will the actions of university governors reflect that?
Regardless of the outcome of the tuition hearing, the university’s approach speaks volumes about its utter lack of sympathy for the populace they rely on. Without their support and presence at Montclair State, however, the administrative personnel serve no purpose.
It is no coincidence that a collection of students is called a body; they have a voice, a heart and a mind and until its voice is given as much weight as those on the board of trustees or those working in the president’s office, it will continue to ail.