The Beacon#039;s pleas to the Board of Trustees

by Beacon Staff • March 18, 2009

bAt issue:/b Emerson's Board of Trustees is meeting this week to decide next year's tuition rate, among other things.

bOur view:/b As students, we know a thing or two. The trustees should consider our advice.

Emerson's Board of Trustees is in town this week, and they've got some serious business before them, from approving architects' plans for a permanent campus in Hollywood to picking the price of next year's tuition. iThe Beacon/i will offer its advice on three of these issues below, but first, we have a more fundamental message for the trustees: bListen./b

Here's why: You may be required to come to campus for only a handful of events each year, yet we live and study here every day. Not only would students like a little say in such major decisions as how much we ought to pay per year, but we may have some insight into other issues that you necessarily lack.

We're encouraged by your change of heart regarding Student Government Association President Scott Fisher's proposal for a one-year tuition freeze and more transparency in the tuition decision process.

Before spring break, Fisher penned an opinion piece for iThe Beacon/i and launched a Facebook group that's attracted more than 800 members. That's nearly one-third of the whole Emerson student population. But, last week, Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen said you all will consider a lot of things when looking at tuition, but "Scott's proposal? I don't think so."

Two weeks later, Rosen told iThe Beacon/i you would, in fact, be considering a written proposal from Fisher. It's a welcome gesture of responsive administration, but we urge you to make it manifest. bDon't just consider, but enact, Fisher's proposal for more transparency in the tuition-setting process./b

Surely, making a binding tuition decision four years in advance would be irresponsible, but providing an honest forecast of the annual cost of college would provide a welcome breath of transparency. Setting tuition is part of your job, but Fisher is right: It doesn't have to be a late spring surprise every year. Students and families are pinching every penny, and they need to plan ahead to keep up with Emerson's incredible increasing price tag.

Freezing tuition, as Fisher also proposes, is almost unheard of at any American college. bHike tuition if you must, but be gentle./b Colleges around Boston and the country have been raising tuition by the smallest increments in decades.

Since December, Emerson has been touting its relatively stable economic standing, which is great news. But many Emerson students and their families are hurting, and can't afford a steep increase in tuition. Further, considering the trend of modest tuition increases at other schools, Emerson will look heartless and out-of-touch if tuition spikes more than, say, 4 percent. Don't tell us to eat cake.

Aside from tuition, we're glad to hear you're paying attention to the story of black professors Pierre Desir and Dr. Roger House, who have both filed complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging they were denied tenure because of their race. But you've known about them both since you signed off on their rejections.

bThis week, make a bold move: Grant professors Pierre Desir and Dr. Roger House tenure./b After covering their stories for more than a month and conducting dozens of interviews with students and faculty, we believe both professors are deserving candidates for tenure. We concur with their colleagues, who unanimously recommended their promotion, and their students, who also vouched for them.

Any campus-wide diversity action plan seems specious when the highest levels of the administration are acceding to systematic injustice toward multicultural professors seeking permanent professorships. Or when Vice President Rosen claims, "Tenure has nothing to do with diversity."

We strongly disagree. Maintaining a quota of minority professors with a combination of temporary adjuncts and token tenure-track candidates is cynical discrimination and a disservice to all Emerson students. We hope you take that one back too, trustees.,iBeacon/i Editorial Board