Crumley Hall, April 3, 2012
President V. Lane Rawlins chatted with students in the living room of Crumley Hall for his first Really, let's talk session of the spring 2012 semester.
Elizabeth With, vice president for student affairs, joined the president to field questions from about 20 students.
Rawlins began the session by explaining the need for UNT's tuition and fee increase for the next two academic years.
"I felt like perhaps we would have a lot of more students here asking why we had to raise tuition, which is a really good question," Rawlins said. "Instead of waiting for you to ask that question, I'll talk about it and then see if you have any other questions."
Tuition and fee increase
In March 2012, the UNT System Board of Regents approved a 3.95 percent tuition and fee increase for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years. On top of the 3.95 percent increase, the board also approved a $25 per semester credit hour increase for graduate tuition starting in fall 2012. In addition, the board approved a 3.6 percent net increase in room and board rates to account for higher food, fuel and operational costs.
Rawlins said he hates raising tuition, but it's necessary to maintain quality and to offset declines in state funding. UNT will use money from the tuition and fee increase to hire more advisors, hire and retain more distinguished faculty, maintain facilities and technology, and provide more financial aid and scholarships, he said.
UNT promises students that they will receive a quality education taught by highly skilled faculty in modern, state-of-the-art facilities, Rawlins said. And UNT promises students that they will have academic advisors and counselors who are readily accessible to help them, he added.
To keep that promise, the university needed to increase tuition and fees. It sought the minimum amount needed, Rawlins explained.
"When we sit down to look at the budget, we have to figure out what we're going to charge you for all that," he said. "We don't want to charge you any more than we have to. But I think the quality of your education comes first."
UNT is very judicious about using its money wisely and not spending more than it has, Rawlins emphasized.
"The tuition increase was about saying to you that if you're going to be here, we want to assure you that this is a place where you can get a world-class education. We'll do it as cheaply as possible but we're not going to kid you. It does take quality faculty, quality equipment and quality support to offer that world-class education," he said.
Clean energy came up for discussion when a student talked about UNT being a green campus. She presented Rawlins with a poster proclaiming World Water Day. She said that UNT's dependency on coal plants as an energy source impacts the environment by causing mercury pollution.
"We ask that UNT moves from natural gas and coal energy," she said.
Rawlins said UNT is currently pursuing the cleanest options available to the university, adding that UNT is at the forefront of sustainability in many other ways. He pointed out UNT's wind turbines, which help generate power for UNT's Apogee Stadium.
"I get a little thrilled every morning driving by them and seeing them as a symbol of who we are and what we're trying to do," Rawlins said.
"We Mean Green" is a slogan that UNT lives and stands by, Rawlins said.
Student activities and involvement
The launch of the university's new theme line and four bold goals also came up when a student remarked on the student portion of the event, which included giveaways and games. In February 2012, UNT unveiled its four bold goals for the university's new strategic plan as well as its new theme line, "A green light to greatness."
The student told Rawlins that he was shocked to see students gambling and playing bingo for iPads.
"To me that didn't embody greatness," the student told Rawlins. "I was wondering what you thought about the different choices we make in college entertainment."
With, the vice president of student affairs, clarified that students decided what they wanted to do for that particular event.
"It was a student-led and student-decided event through the Student Activities Center," With said. "Their intent was to appeal to as many students as possible and to engage them."
Rawlins added that UNT is a place that "gives students the opportunity and responsibility to make good choices for themselves."
For example, he said UNT's Student Service Fee Committee is one of the few among universities and colleges that is run by students.
"They allocate their own money in ways that I don't like. But I think the principles of responsibility and choice, particularly in an environment such as university, is important," Rawlins said.
The best way for students to see the things they want on campus is to get involved in student organizations, which oversee student activities and events, Rawlins said.
New union building
UNT's new student union building, which will replace the current union that was built in the 1970s, also was discussed. A student asked what Rawlins would like to see in the new building.
In April 2012, students approved a $115 fee increase per semester to fund a renovated and expanded union. Construction on the new union is scheduled to begin in June 2013, and the new fee will take effect starting in fall 2014.
The most important thing is that the new union has the features that students want, Rawlins said.
"I want you here for all kind of reasons but number one is that I want you to have a great academic experience," he said.
He said he's suggested that students consider adding space for ballrooms, lectures, performances and academic events, but emphasized that the decisions are up to students.
Rawlins said his priority is to make sure the new union doesn't displace academic programs completely. The building's footprint will require absorbing some academic spaces on campus, but the university will have a plan to accommodate those programs elsewhere, he said.
Rawlins closed the session by thanking students for their participation and encouraging them to take advantage of the student organizations and services available to them at UNT.
"I want you all to get straight As but that's only part of what a university is about," he said. "It's about being involved in a community at a time in your life that is very formative, so take advantage of it and don't be afraid to engage us. You have thousands of people here who have no other job but to participate in your education. And I am one of them."