Brian Graney

I am of those people graduating in December. No fancy graduation with friends and family with a former U.S. senator or cabinet secretary offering words of wisdom to Miami University’s latest graduating class. I am taking part in graduation ceremony that is open to the public and will feature speakers as famous as Mississippi Miami President David Hodge.

The decision to graduate a semester early is a double-edged sword of missing close friends who will be spending their last spring semester at Miami taking classes that do not require brainpower or even regular attendance. Green Beer Day, Spring Break and extended farewells, to close friends, and the daily peace protest are all things I will miss next semester, but on the plus side I will no longer be maintaining a Miami e-mail account that fills with Viagra and home mortgage spam messages every day.

Moving into the real world a semester early certainly saves money but it forces me to grow up quickly. Apartment rent, utility bills and a full-time job are all looming next month. But simultaneously, I am excited about moving to a new city and meeting new friends, and bursting through the bubble of Oxford, Ohio.

I have loved my time here at Miami. Like most students, I made close friends and experienced unforgettable moments that most people often look back fondly at as their signature moments in college. But I also feel it is time to move on. The job market for recent graduates becomes more competitive and cutthroat every year and graduating early can become an advantage.

But as I look forward to my career and starting the next chapter of my life, I also reflect on Miami and where it is going, and I must say I am deeply troubled. Miami is an institution rich in history and tradition with a beautiful campus in a quaint Midwestern setting. But recent decisions have made me question the direction of my beloved school.

As great as the new building additions are on campus, there is much more to be done and all the effort and concentration put into renovating or building facilities like Lewis Place and over expensive parking garages could have been better placed elsewhere. After all, how many times does a kitchen need to be redecorated?

Meanwhile, the relationship between the city of Oxford and Miami University is at an all-time low. City leaders seem solely focused on banning beer pong games and not (at least initially) engaging in dialogue with Miami students. Hopefully both sides can put this past year’s circus show to bed, but I remain unconvinced that another stunt won’t be pulled again soon. The new trash can regulations of fining people for placing trashcan adjacent to their front porch, for instance, are not a good sign of things to come.

And with so many financial and academic problems facing Miami in the near future, the administration appears to believe smoking is public enemy No. 1. I don’t smoke-it’s apparently habit-forming and bad for one’s health-but students smoking outside in designated smoking areas are not giving other students lung cancer. Miami is an institution of higher learning, not a nanny babysitting young children. Rather than grab news headlines and be grouped with Centerville Bible College in anti-smoking overzealousness, perhaps the administration should spend time and resources in attracting better faculty members or working out a strategy to decrease tuition costs. Just a thought.

And for all the empty rhetoric spoken about attracting a more diverse student body and offering lower-income students an incentive to come to Miami, all the worst stereotypes about Miami continue to ring true on campus. Wealthy, spoiled suburban kids invade the Oxford campus each school year and Miami is more than happy to pinch every penny possible out of the students. Miami, an in-state institution, began a few years ago to only offer an “in-state scholarship” to Ohio residents at a flat rate of $10,000 per semester. The change has only made Miami more expensive for Ohio students and blurs the line between whether or not Miami is truly an in-state institution.

There are some positive signs that Miami may not be completely on the wrong track. Just this week, Associated Student Government (ASG) rejected a “living wage” proposal-a reoccurring Trojan Horse on campus-for all full-time Miami employees. Bravo to the astute members of ASG and their ability to see through thinly veiled emotional appeals and comprehend basic economic principles. And to their credit, the administration had adamantly opposed a living wage policy at Miami. A starting salary of $9.00/hour in an area like Butler County is a good starting point.

Miami also showed a smart strategy in finally consolidating the Western College Program within the College of Arts and Science.

It seemed illogical for the rest of the campus to financially support a program with a membership smaller than the number students at an average house party on a Friday night.

Miami will always be a part of my life. When I apply for new jobs or graduate school, interviewers will see my undergraduate degree coming from Miami and will instantly form an impression of the school. I only hope Miami becomes more focused in making this school a better place for learning and cut out the rift-raft that serves only as a useless distraction.