By: Stanton Dobson, Copy Editor
“I feel like you go to this campus [Armstrong] for something different than what you would go to Georgia Southern for. I feel like they’re still two different colleges just under one name.”
It would appear that the community of Armstrong does not yet accept the motto of “one university; three campuses.”
In fact, many of its members feel the divided from the institution of Georgia Southern. As the semester goes on, there seems to be even more changes, even more broken promises that further alienate students and faculty from the university that they are supposed to know as their home.
There is a lack of transparency concerning the decision-making done at Statesboro for Armstrong, and the community is upset because of it.
Lately there has been a reallocation of funds to many of Armstrong University’s long-established facilities of student services. These facilities are being forced to operate on less of a budget than pre-consolidated levels.
Writing Center Woes
One such affected facility is the Writing Center at Armstrong. There have been reports that the writing center budget has been reduced to pre-1999 levels, as that, even in 1999, the Armstrong Writing Center budget was at least $18,000, but now is practically half that value at $10,000, and it is essentially a third of its pre-consolidation value of $25,000.
Deborah Reese, the director of the Armstrong Writing Center has protested that a budget of $10,000 is hardly enough to operate on:
“I have less than $350 a week for tutor wages, and $50 of that has to go to training. If I have six students at $7.25 an hour, that’s $50 for that hour of training. That cuts our budget down even further to $285 a week for face-to-face tutoring.”
“We are no longer able to offer asynchronous tutoring. And even, if we were able to offer it, I don’t have enough hours in the day to divert the tutors on staff to work with online papers because online tutoring is more time-consuming…this is the only open use computer lab in Gamble Hall. If we’re not open, students aren’t able to get to computers either. They’re not going to be able to use those.”
Students have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the most recent diminishing of Armstrong facilities. Miranda Brawner, has stated,
“I think that it is a big loss for the university. I think that the writing center needs to stay open for lots of hours, so that the students with different schedules can come in whenever they are available, and the students that work at the writing center need to be paid enough.”
She goes on to state that students need services like the writing center—that “students like me that tend to like freeze up in the face of those assignments…[student facilities] deserve a lot more funding.”
Another student Brandon Ellershaw protests that,
“many promises they made were not kept…Tuition, I believe, will go up for some of the students, even though it was promised to stay the same and so much so that a lot of students have not come back, and that’s actually shown by Windward Commons having one whole wing closed and roped off because they have that less of a student body coming in.”
On the topic of tuition. Many students have reported that tuition prices have, after the consolidation, either increased or stayed marginally the same. However it is the drop in enrollment and the diminished revenue in tuition that necessitated the reduction in funding in the first place.
Many members of the Armstrong community are confused as to how the university can be lacking in resources when tuition rates are higher.
“But I do not see any significant reduction in tuition dollars. So, that means the money is still there. Tuition is being charged, and the dollars for student services is still there”
Many Armstrong students and faculty cite the drop in enrollment at the Armstrong Campus to be a consequence of the consolidation itself.
“Our numbers did not begin to significantly drop until the announcement of this merger,” says a student who wishes to remain anonymous.
Change is Possible
Though some of these complaints may come off as strident or even scathing, in essence, the community of Armstrong is just upset. Its people feel left out and detached from the goings on at Georgia Southern and want to be a part of the decision-making involved in managing the facets of their university.
The lack of transparency in the decision-making process at Statesboro should be called out and noticed and improved upon. Dissatisfaction should be the basis for reform.
With recent appeals by Armstrong student against ill-received Georgia Southern policies, like shorter hours at Gus Mart or changes in Learning Commons hours, being so effective, more and more of the Armstrong community is feeling encouraged to seek out public outlets and express their opinions in hopes to make a difference. This is a good thing.
To close, I will cite another one of those opinions from Armstrong faculty member, Deborah Reese. She expresses what she believes to be the model example for a university and hopes that Georgia Southern continues to strive towards this model.
“Colleges don’t exist for themselves. Colleges certainly don’t exist for administrators. Colleges exist for the students. Colleges exist for education. And a student with a college education is going to make a better life for himself or herself, and that better life is going to affect the community. It’s going to affect families. It’s not just going to perpetuate college life. It’s there for the community, for our nation, for our state. And I feel like every time we pull back on the services such as a writing center, it sets a precedent, and we’re no longer to help in the way that we were.”