Column: SIU’s priorities are not in order


Daily Egyptian file photo

By Sam Beard

It has come to my attention that many of my constituents do not know that SIU is no longer going to blow-up the towers and build shiny, new, wildly expensive dorms in their place.

The abandonment of this project is a good thing. But, as usual, it comes with a massive catch.

In February, in order to help fund dorm construction, the Board of Trustees hiked room & board costs six percent a year for the next three years, totaling a whopping 18 percent increase.


Let’s hope this does not pan out as the ol’ bait-and-switch because, as it stands, the new dorms aren’t going up, but that nearly 20 percent hike to fund them is still in place.

It is certainly important to point out that the Board of Trustees does not vote on adjustments in tuition, fees and housing costs until the December meeting, so they could still vote to rescind the massive hike.

Regardless, it is imperative to direct student attention to this, so that come December, we can ensure we are not getting our pockets fleeced yet again.

SIU built the towers to accommodate the sharp rise in enrollment that most colleges saw during the 60’s and 70’s. Unfortunately for the university — and entire region, for that matter — our enrollment peaked in 1991 and is now at its lowest rate in over 50 years.

Understandably, the administration has been trying to come up with ways to boost enrollment and retention to save the university from spiraling into obscurity.

Strangely enough, the master plan they came up with to slow our plummeting numbers was not to invest in educational resources and research opportunities.

Instead, the grand scheme to jump-start enrollment was a shallow appeal to aesthetics — demolishing three skyscraper dorms and spending $257 million to build fancier, more contemporary ones.


Since we are still constructing our 2025 Vision — Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s call to reimagine what SIU should look like in eight years — let’s toy with the following.

Can you imagine how many bright students would flood the university if they pumped that quarter-billion into academic programs and research initiatives? Can you imagine the enrollment surge if they simultaneously lowered the cost of the ridiculously overpriced housing? They would have to reopen all of the shuttered dorms around campus and students would still be fighting for rooms!

It would send shockwaves around the world of higher ed. Students and faculty at schools like Harvard and Oxford might even get a little jealous.

Clearly, cash wasn’t an issue when the administration wanted to take out over $250 million in loans to build luxury dormitories. So if we are really serious about turning Carbondale around, if we are really serious about SIU becoming the hottest school on the market, let’s get our priorities straight.

In regards to reimagining SIU in light of our current financial problems, our new chancellor said “resources do not define our vision.” How refreshing it is to hear a campus leader state that we will not let outside forces hold us back from actualizing what we all know is possible!

If the administration wants to increase enrollment, since apparently that is the priority, they must substantially drop the cost of housing, halt tuition and fee hikes and, most importantly, invest in the quality of education SIU provides.

Right now, to live in the towers and eat basic food costs $10,622 per academic year. That is a staggering $1,328 a month to share a room with someone.

Our mission statement reads: “SIU embraces a unique tradition of access and opportunity, inclusive excellence, innovation in research and creativity and outstanding teaching focused on nurturing student success.”

However, by gutting research, creative activity and the graduate assistantship program while implementing a $10 million dollar hiring freeze, the administration is currently lowering the quality of education offered at SIU while simultaneously raising the cost of attendance.

SIU administrators incessantly boast about how accessible the university is while simultaneously extracting increasing amounts of cash from the students.

If we are to redefine higher education by 2025, we need to change our relationship to it.

We need to take bold steps forward, in spite of it all, to prove to prospective and current students that Carbondale is the perfect place to get the best education possible to prepare for whatever else the twenty-first century will throw at us.

Student Trustee Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (618) 453-8418. His office is located in the Registered Student Organization Suite on the third floor of the Student Center and his office hours are Mondays/Wednesdays: 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m., Thursdays: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., or by appointment.