Students voice concerns about stadium, budget

Five administrators responded to student questions about the future of the campus

At the Minnesota Student Association âÄôs second annual Student Concern Forum Tuesday, students raised issues on the budget cut, the new stadium, textbook prices and more. Five administrators from various departments were at the open meeting to respond to questions and concerns students brought up. MSA Academics and Services Chairman Brendan OâÄôShea coordinated the event. âÄúThe idea behind the Student Concern Forum is to offer regular students an opportunity to have a face-to-face discussion with University of Minnesota administrators,âÄù OâÄôShea said. âÄúItâÄôs to give students a voice.âÄù The TCF Bank Stadium was the hot topic, and Associate Athletics Director Phil Esten was available to address issues. âÄúOf course everybodyâÄôs got a concern about traffic and parking, and I just hope people give it a chance,âÄù Esten said. âÄúI think itâÄôs just going to be really fun.âÄù

TCF Bank Stadium

With the new stadium opening soon, sophomore Paul Buchel asked how tickets will be distributed to students. Esten said they have already sold all 40,000 non-student tickets, and he hopes the 10,000 student season tickets will sell out after they go on sale later this month . âÄú[It is] a very affordable ticket. In the Big Ten, itâÄôs the second lowest,âÄù Esten said. âÄúWe put together a process by which weâÄôll offer the opportunity to purchase season tickets for current students, and then to incoming students next year.âÄù The administrators also discussed parking around the stadium on game day. Esten said there are enough parking spots available for game day and ticket holders will go through a parking lot selection process this summer. âÄúWeâÄôve been working very closely with Parking and Transportation Services,âÄù Esten said. âÄúI think weâÄôve got a very, very solid plan.âÄù

Textbook Prices

Sophomore finance and international business student Irene Wong said she was worried about the affordability of textbooks. âÄúTextbook prices have been increasing every year,âÄù she said. Bob Crabb , Director of University of Minnesota Bookstores, said the bookstore introduced a new book rental program this year for certain courses that will help reduce the amount students pay each semester. He said the pilot program has been popular among students and hopes it will be expanded to include a larger number of textbooks next year. Crabb also said the increased availability of e-books will help reduce costs. He said about 1,500 e-books were offered last year with 6,000 this year. However, he explained that students save the most money on textbooks if they buy them used and sell them back at the end of the semester, thereby paying 25 percent of the new book price.

Crime and Safety

University police Chief Greg Hestness was at the meeting to talk about crime on campus and how students can remain safe. âÄúThe crime rateâÄôs been excellent the last several years,âÄù he said. âÄúI donâÄôt think weâÄôve had an increase since 2004. WeâÄôre down 13 percent last year.âÄù MSA Vice President Trisha Thompson asked about trends in crime. Hestness said any apparent trend in burglaries or robberies was a result of increased crime alerts, adding that theft was actually the highest-reported crime with 519 reports on campus in 2008. As for the increased traffic around the stadium, Hestness said most of the traffic control will be electronic with timed lights and cameras. He said the estimated 27 people to work traffic posts will mainly be to control pedestrians. âÄúThe cars I think will be fairly well-managed, but you have to really manage the people so they donâÄôt conflict with the traffic and you can keep traffic moving,âÄù he said. When tailgating was brought up, Hestness said alcohol will be allowed on designated surface lots, but there will be no tailgating in ramps.

U Budget

Although Gov. Tim Pawlenty âÄôs revised budget proposal would give the University one-time federal stimulus money, state support will still be cut, reducing the budget by $110 million for each of the next two years. OâÄôShea, the event coordinator, asked each administrator to address the issue of the budget cut. Robert McMaster , Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, said some services will have to be cut. He said one possible change could be the way students take writing-intensive courses. Instead of taking the required four courses on the current curriculum, he said, students would write within their majors.

Campus Housing

Director of Housing and Residential Life Laurie McLaughlin said housing is funded entirely by students who live on campus, so the budget depends not on state funding, but on the number of students in campus dormitories and apartments. âÄúWeâÄôve had very strong occupancy levels over the past five years,âÄù McLaughlin said. âÄúSo that certainly has helped.âÄù She said that 83 percent of first-year students are housed on campus. Students were worried about possible increases in room and board costs, but McLaughlin said the cost will remain the same next year. âÄúWeâÄôve recommended no rate increase,âÄù she said. âÄúThat will really help with the cost of attending the University for those who live on campus.âÄù