Transportation - C
Transportation seems to have become one of the most difficult dilemmas for university officials to solve. The editorial board previously gave Transportation Services officials an F in a February 2013 Main Point for their failure to accommodate Texas State students in many areas. However, the department has shown considerable improvement this academic year.
An increasing amount of students pour into Texas State every fall semester, and officials have taken multiple steps to correct poor decision-making and disorganization in previous years. The cancellation of the Bobcat Tram Interurban services, for example, compounded parking issues by forcing former BTI riders to commute to campus via car.
However, officials have rezoned several lots to add more commuter spaces and recently made the lot in front of the now-closed Clear Springs apartment complex available for purple permit parking. Additionally, the new Edward Gary Street Parking Garage has 250 spaces reserved for residential permit holders, as well as 208 pay-by-the-hour spots.
Despite the addition of new spaces, parking and transportation are by no means perfect at Texas State. Buses are still crowded, finding a parking space before class is still difficult and students are still unhappy. The lack of a Transportation Services director is also disconcerting.
However, what is encouraging is the way in which university officials have responded to the criticism regarding these issues. Proposed permit fee increases of astronomical proportions were lowered following student feedback. An additional bus stop has been added on Woods Street, rerouting some traffic to a different side of campus. Zipcars have also been made available for students to rent for an hourly and daily fee.
While it is easy to be cynical about the transportation issue at Texas State, progress has been made, which is a significant turnaround from previous years.
Athletics - A-
The Texas State athletics program has made positive strides this year in improving the quality of its teams and being competitive in the Sun Belt—its third conference in three years."
The move from the Western Athletic Conference to the Sun Belt made sense from a geographical stand point—the university is now competing against teams from Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama rather than traveling to states like California, Utah and Washington.
In addition, the football team became the second fastest team ever to become bowl eligible after joining the Football Bowl Subdivision. The soccer team finished fourth in the conference standings and was one win away from being in the championship game of the Sun Belt tournament, which was hosted at Texas State. The volleyball team finished third in regular season standings but captured the Sun Belt Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after just one year in the conference.
Although the basketball season is underway, it has not begun the way many had hoped for both the men and women’s teams. Despite this, Coach Danny Kaspar was a great hire. Kaspar has been the winningest coach in the state of Texas for the past six seasons and will improve the team once he gets his recruits into the program. Coach Zenarae Antoine is entering her third season with the Bobcats and is still implementing her system with recruits.
The track and field teams are coming off a season where they captured three WAC titles and look to build on that momentum. Baseball has been consistently strong, and softball just finished undefeated this fall after a disappointing spring season.
Overall, athletics officials have done a commendable job with marketing, creating hype around the teams and, most importantly, raising expectations that have been low for years.
Transparency - C-
Transparency at Texas State is decidedly lackluster. Administrators need to make more of an effort to be open with students about policy changes that directly affect them.
The cancellation of the Bobcat Tram Interurban services in January was decided with student input only coming from a poorly conducted survey that did not adequately gauge riders’ opinions. Furthermore, information such as Faculty Senate meeting minutes needs to be updated in a more timely fashion and made more easily accessible on the Texas State website. At the very least, university officials need to make an effort to better communicate with students.
University President Denise Trauth’s open door sessions are great opportunities for students looking to voice their concerns, but these few meetings each semester are not enough. The sessions are offered infrequently and are not publicized as well as they could be. University officials should make an effort to push these events on social media. Students are interested in attending such events—the sizable turnout at this year’s Associate Student Government roundtable event proves that.
University officials are out of sync with the needs of the student body. While Texas State is not completely off the mark with transparency, greater involvement with students would greatly benefit the university in the future.
Community Relations - B-
While the university’s community relations have improved over the past year, university officials need to reach out to city leaders to create better lines of communication between the two entities.
The declaration of the citywide “Pack Bobcat Stadium” day was a positive sign of a partnership between the university and the community. Despite this, Texas State administrators still must do more to increase mutual university and city involvement.
One easy way to begin furthering this initiative would be having an administrator present at city council meetings when topics affecting students, staff or the campus are on the agenda. This could help ensure university and student interests are accurately represented and expressed to city leaders.
City officials need to communicate with university representatives to better schedule construction projects. In addition, Texas State administrators must take it upon themselves to clearly inform students of such community matters, even if these issues do not directly affect bus routes. A prime example of poor communication with project planning is the construction on LBJ Drive.
Cooperation with counterpart departments in the university and the city is possible if solid initiative is taken—as exemplified by communication between the San Marcos and university police departments on a number of cases this semester.
Growth Management -C-
The university once again experienced a year of record population growth for both the freshman class and overall enrollment, and ranked fourth in statewide applications. Enrollment increases are exciting, but Texas State unfortunately still seems to have trouble properly managing its growth.
The editorial board’s C- grade for growth management is an improvement from last year’s F- in the same category because university officials are clearly attempting to find solutions to the problem.
Texas State administrators requested $83 million during the most recent legislative session for the construction of an engineering and science building on the main campus. Unfortunately, legislators could not agree on a bill before the session ended, meaning plans for expansion at Texas State were stalled. Despite this, it is encouraging that university officials recognize the need for the proposed buildings.
However, the reality of the situation remains that Texas State officials continue to admit increasing amounts of students to the university when it clearly cannot accommodate its existing students. The university is clearly overcrowded, hence the need for additional buildings, and the population increase has created a slew of problems.
The completion of several construction projects, like the Undergraduate Academic Center, has helped alleviate some space shortages. Additionally, it was a wise decision to not allow any new stops on the Texas State bus route for new apartment complexes. These are positive steps in the right direction, but they will be short-lived improvements if administrators do not raise admission standards and continue to accept record numbers of students each year.
More enrolled students equals more money for the university, but this formula has backfired since it has placed a strain on several departments. If Texas State plans on achieving its goal of increasing prestige and becoming a Tier One university any time soon, officials must first correct existing space and funding issues.