Austin Fast

In an effort to remain transparent and ensure student voices are heard, university administrators fielded questions from a small crowd gathered Monday night to discuss Miami University’s troubled finances.

Representatives from Associated Student Government (ASG), faculty members and students spent the hour asking questions on topics ranging from tuition costs to fundraising to Miami’s poor investment returns.

“I’d like students to demand even more from us,” Provost Jeffrey Herbst said. “I think we should be held accountable. You’re paying bills and this is a public institution.”

David Creamer, vice president of finance and business services, added that the student experience will remain a top priority as the university cuts back on the approximately $350 million budget.

University departments submitted proposals for cuts in the middle of January, which Creamer said are currently being reviewed. He added that the personnel cuts will be finalized by late March.

Of the $22 million in cuts that are currently being considered, Creamer said academic affairs has the smallest number of cuts.

“We’re focusing the cuts as far away from students and academic priorities as we can,” Creamer said. “We’re trying to be especially sympathetic to academic needs of our students.”

Despite considerable cutbacks in several departments, Creamer said Miami’s athletic department has a direct impact upon student life and cannot be scaled back too much.

“We’re simply asking less of some areas and college athletics fell into that,” Creamer said.

Creamer added that when the university begins to emerge from this financial crisis, Miami will need to be more careful in planning new initiatives.

President David Hodge said Miami will have to be cautious in setting priorities and reaffirmed his determination to build the Bicentennial Student Center and address the problem of the empty Kreger Hall.

“We’re going to be a lot more careful about making those commitments until we’re certain we have the financial backing,” Hodge said.

Hodge remained optimistic that state support will increase if the stimulus bill currently in Congress passes.

“What the governor believes is that the tuition cap is not free,” Hodge said. “We cannot continue to underfund education and expect to have a quality output.”

Matt Forrest, ASG secretary for on-campus affairs, expressed concern that as an out-of-state student, his tuition and tuition of all other non-residents would jump to make up for the in-state tuition freeze Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland extended for the 2009-10 academic year.

“Don’t assume the burden will shift to out-of-state students,” Creamer said. “We don’t need to take short-term, over-reactive actions that harm the university long-term.”

Hodge added that he would like to see students more fully involved in all aspects of student life at Miami, from athletics to arts and music events.

“The number one thing is student success,” Hodge said. “It’s not the profile of the students coming in that matters, it’s the profile of students going out.”