Students battle for your vote

Finding new ways to keep college affordable for college students led the discussion at a debate between presidential and vice presidential candidates for Northern Kentucky University’s Student Government Association.

The debate, hosted by The Northerner, had presidential candidate Danielle Hawks, current executive vice president of SGA and her vice presidential running mate Jamie Hazenfield Jr, current legislative liaison, face off against their respective opponents, Dustin Robinson, current secretary for student involvement, and Erik Pederson, a student senator.

One of the only areas of contention expressed by the two candidates was over the implementation of a new proposed fee to improve the Campus Recreation Center. A fee change, currently supported by most members of SGA, would phase in to up to almost $400/year for every NKU student, even if they never planned to use the center.

Both Hawks and Robinson said they supported the fee. However, Robinson said that he differed from Hawks on the issue because he believed that students should be able to vote on the issue in a referendum. That way students would have a direct voice on whether or not to adopt the fee.

Another area of contention was the idea of allowing alcohol sales on campus other than at the Bank of Kentucky Center.

“I think it’s certainly a feasible idea for the future, and I think that students, of course, would rally behind that in a heartbeat and I would, as a Regent…rally behind that,” Hawks said.

Robinson agreed and added that he would want a lot more research done when it comes to protecting the university from liability and make sure law enforcement was comfortable.

The contention came from Hawks’ running mate. Hazenfield said that allowing alcohol on campus would guarantee that tuition would always go up.

Tuition increases and the rising costs of education in general were among the issues debated.

When asked about whether it was fair that students see annual tuition increases, Hawks said that students need to better understand why tuition increases are necessary.

“As the liaison between the administration and students, we need to do a better job of advertising to students what exactly our student tuition increases are going towards,” Hawks said.

Robinson blamed the Council for Postsecondary Education, which oversees Kentucky’s colleges and universities, and caps the amount that each institution can request.

“One thing we have to take into account is NKU doesn’t really set tuition increases,” Robinson claimed, adding that it “was out of our hands.”

However, the NKU Board of Regents sets it own tuition increases each year within the limits established by the CPE, which must only simply endorse or send back the action, a point which Robinson later conceded adding that “in order for the university to continue to function, tuition has to go up.”

Pederson explained that NKU is a growing university and in order to continue to grow and improve, it must consider tuition increases to make options like going to Division I NCAA athletics feasible.

All candidates admitted that they do not pay the full costs of their own tuition and fees, as some students do, because they receive assistance from scholarships or their families.

The rising costs of books was also addressed. Hawks emphasized that she would push to make sure faculty members are actually using the books in class that students are required to purchase.

She also supported Robinson and Pederson’s idea that ISBN numbers, individual codes used to identify each book, be posted online prior to the start of each semester so students can use those to search for used books at lower costs.

Some states, like West Virginia, have state laws requiring universities to post ISBN numbers.

Robinson also advocated during the debate that the Financial Aid office needs to remove the hold placed on the disbursement of federal loan and grant funds because students are already aware of the consequences of committing fraud.

Hazenfield emphasized how a recent external study indicated that an area of improvement for the university was in the area of customer service and he would support finding ways to improve the relationship between students and Financial Aid.

Other topics discussed included respecting free speech rights on campus, increasing respect for diversity, improving university housing, and representing the students on the Board of Regents. You can listen to the full debate online here.

Story by Jesse Call