Five point nine, five point nine. By now, you’ve most likely heard of the proposed $719-per-semester tuition hike to be inaugurated next fall. “When will it stop?” read the top headline of The Miami Hurricane last week. The article made no mention of the 3.5 percent increase in housing costs for double rooms and the 4 percent increase for singles.
Even the most skeptical of us must admit that UM has done a damn good PR job over the last few years. Our quiet school nestled in the outskirts of Miami has shed its Suntan U. status, and been embraced by entire country. We are a household name. Americans see us on ESPN, on CNN, and all over the papers; we are brought up in everyday conversations about sports, Florida, and former U.S. cabinet members.
In fact, Shalala’s smile attracts cameras anywhere she goes. Larry Coker and the football elite are invited to speak on hundreds of television programs and specials before and after football season. UM clothes and paraphernalia have become stocking stuffers throughout the American heartland.
Now the piper must be paid.
A damn good PR job does not come cheaply, dear classmates. National Championships, lush green landscaping, merchandising, more merchandising, and even more merchandising do not begin to quench the thirst of an entity growing, and loving it.
With such increasing popularity, regard, national exposure, class size, and appetite, comes the demand for expansion. In a few short years this university has arisen from a quiet, slow-building, well-tanned age to an era of decision. We have been led, pulled, pushed, and excelled to a turning point: whether to maintain a comfortable second-banana position compared to the “more prestigious” universities of the nation; or whether to allow the leadership to grab the reins of academics to lead the students and faculty, at full gallop, to an undiscovered country, an ever-advancing future.
So what, say you. So now it is time to ally, to choose your side.
Are you for advancement, or at least for what goes for advancement, even though it demands higher tuition, higher standards, and expansion of control? Or do you refuse to believe in the proclaimed merits of economic expansion, and the struggle to maintain a status you feel is better, more comfortable, or more ethical than the alternative?
So it goes. But where it does go is very much within the sphere of your influence. Start simple, with your own voice. Soon you’ll hear the voices of others, behind or against you. The endowment is diminishing fast, so they say. It may be a time for a leap to self-sufficiency but regardless it is a time for action.
Where are you laying your blame? On the administration, on the board of trustees, or on corporate sponsors that some paranoids will characterize as a cloaked high council carrying out all decisions from up high? How about on the zealous faculty who continually insist on higher salaries and improved benefits? Perhaps the primary cause of all of this is the students, who demand more cable channels in the dorms, faster internet access, more areas for parking, more computers, state-of-the-art technologic facilities, cleaner bathrooms, Convocation Centers, and a super-university status?
Some, most likely the quiet ones, will be affected by such expansion in more dramatic ways because the judgments of future dollars from above will always create economic tension at the bottom rung of financial and social stability. Some won’t be able to continue their studies at UM after the 5.9 percent increase in tuition and the three-and-a-half percent to four percent increase in room and board because their voices were not loud enough, and their wallets were too small.