Student Senate voted to approve the creation of an ad hoc committee to address accessibility issues and heard from President Teresa Amott about the school’s financial situation at their meeting last Thursday in the Trustees Room of Alumni Hall.
Kerley raises accessibility issues
The senate meeting began with Ashley Kerley, senior, addressing senate during public comment. Kerley, who was injured in a car accident on Oct. 28, discussed the accessibility issues she has faced since returning to campus.
Kerley described the incident as opening her eyes to the extent to which campus is inaccessible, feeling that she could not complete a full year at Knox if her condition was permanent. She noted the difficulty of maneuvering the campus in a wheelchair due to the bumps on sidewalks and not fitting into Hamblin’s bathrooms and that it has been a struggle figuring out how she could continue to attend her classes this term.
Kerley charged Senate with making an ad hoc committee that would approach improving accessibility on campus in a serious manner. Senate voted to approve the creation of the committee.
Amott presents on finances
Amott begin her remarks to Student Senate by acknowledging the recent incidents that have affected student such as Kerley’s, and supporting the Senate’s creation of an accessibility committee. Amott would later attribute these issues with making campus accessible to the drop in college revenue.
Amott gave a presentation to senate on the school’s financial situation, showing data on the school’s revenue and expenses. She discussed how despite agreeing with the sentiments behind lowering tuition and raising faculty wages, those goals are in conflict with each other. Net tuition and fees are 49% of Knox’s revenue, while employee salaries and wages are 48% of the school’s expenses.
While nationally, net tuition revenue is flattening, Amott stated that at Knox it is dropping due to more financial aid being offered. She noted that while aid is being increased in response to family struggles, it’s also because even families who could afford to cover tuition still expect to receive merit aid.
Senior staff have been working on minimizing the impact financial struggles have on student experience, with Amott describing efforts like shrinking the employee base. The school has looked into possibilities to raise revenue like selling the President’s House, but this was discounted due to their being no market in Galesburg for the building.
Amott expressed that while what the school charges is not a secret, she felt the school should be clearer in its communications to potential students about its costs, such as that domestic students can expect a 3.4% raise in tuition every year. Strategies for improving this include beginning to email tuition letters to all students rather than just their parents and independent students.
Having also heard concerns from students about getting bounced from office to office when attempting to deal with their financial issues, Amott said the school would also be establishing an Office of Student Financial Services. This will allow students to have one contact person on finances for all four years at Knox.
Senate poses questions to president
Among the questions posed to Amott by senate members was whether current students should be fearful over the school’s present financial situation. Amott responded that students should be mindful that every demand they make joins a long list of priorities. She reassured that Knox is very different in makeup from the colleges that have recently faced closure and is not in the same danger, having among other factors a much larger endowment of $170 million to fall back on.
Asked about shrinking enrollment, Amott stated that Knox is doing comparatively better from other schools in the region. She credited to Knox having anticipated the enrollment drop that would hit the Midwest, and thus has made efforts to recruit more students in the western United States and internationally.
When a senator asked whether the school had any plans to respond to the wealth gap issues and vocalize student needs nationally, Amott answered that she believed the channel for that was through student organizations and not senior staff. However, her advice to students was that they have a plan for how to execute change, study social movements and think about the effectiveness of social media organizing.
Draper steps down as VP
President Cayne Randle, senior, announced to Senate the resignation of Vice-President Robert Draper, junior. While Draper was not present at the meeting and there was no statement from him, Randle described the cause of his resignation as being personal reasons.
Randle stated that senate intends to hold an election for a new Vice-President shortly, and Draper will be available for the training of his successor. She clarified that senate rules allow anyone with a year’s experience as a senate member to run for the position.
Senate also has two vacant freshmen seats, which Randle stated they would attempt to fill through an election this week.
New clubs and funds request
Senate voted to approve a $69 event funds request from Friends of Green Oaks House and to approve two new student groups as official campus clubs, the Sisters of Excellence and the Knox Magic Guild.
Representatives for the Sisters of Excellence described the group as being meant to create a comfortable space for black women on campus.. Representatives of the Knox Magic Guild stated their club aimed to unify students on campus who play the card game Magic: The Gathering.