Amid Texas State’s recent reclassification as an Emerging Research Institution, rapid changes should be taking place to improve the university’s overall prestige, operations and services to students. However, the editorial board believes Texas State is failing to serve its students at acceptable levels in multiple areas including growth management, transportation, university and community relations and transparency.
The University Star aims to inform the public by being a watchdog for the university and the community. The editorial board painstakingly edits and aids with the reporting of the university and felt these major themes needed to be addressed in a comprehensive way. The grades the editorial board gave reflect a worrisome and complex web of financial and communication errors that are plaguing the university.
Growth Management - F-
The university is overcrowded with students, who are spilling out into the streets and causing problems that run far beyond traffic.
The School of Music does not have enough space to accommodate students inside the building. It is ridiculous that music majors are routinely forced to practice outside because all of the rooms inside the building are occupied.
The officials students need and trust are commonly not available to provide their services because of excessive demand for their duties. The Counseling Center cannot support the amount of students who are in need of services. In addition, the University Police Department has been historically understaffed and would certainly have trouble handling a large crisis if there ever was one.
Janitors have to clean almost double the area the university sets as its standard, while more students continue to pour in to provide funding for the university’s operations. More students equals more money for the university, but this theory has begun to backfire on the university with strain on basic facility management.
Texas State is trying to improve prestige with Emerging Research Institution status by adding more Ph.D. and master’s programs. Despite this, the current space available to house students in majors like engineering and music is a question in itself. More space and funding are needed to build additional buildings, but the university land bubble has appeared to burst, and 99 percent of the university’s property has been built on already. Texas State has handled growth management as poorly as it possibly could, and where the university will go from here is a serious concern.
Transportation - F+
Students have been negatively affected in their efforts to get to class on time and park around campus because of recent decisions by transportation services. Officials have canceled interurban tram services to Austin and San Antonio for the upcoming fall semester and proposed to raise prices for every type of parking permit. Some students, particularly commuters who utilized the interurban buses, will soon find they will have to shell out more money in gas and permits for a trip to and from campus.
The increase in permit prices is necessary to pay off debts incurred from parking garage construction. Though parking garages are part of the campus Master Plan and will benefit students in the long run, doubling campus residents’ permit fees is a poorly-planned solution to unorganized planning in the past. Debt service is a steady, predictable cost, and for it to become so insurmountable after only a year of declining permit sales and parking violation fees is inexcusable. More expensive permits are inevitable, but a gradual increase, perhaps $20 to $50 per semester, would be much easier for students to handle.
Some commuters who utilize the interurban trams are without cars and may not be able to continue attending Texas State in the fall when those routes are canceled. Even with their deceptively-worded surveys, transportation services realized there was a demographic whose education depended on the commuter bus routes and chose to disregard it.
Transportation services leaders appear to maintain there is no connection between the interurban tram cancelations and permit price increases, but the timing is more than coincidental. These officials have demonstrated a consistent failure to accommodate Texas State’s growth, earning them a solid F. Transportation services officials did allow students with permits to park in the previously restricted lot near the tennis courts, giving the grade a plus. But it is troubling that such a huge lot was ever restricted to begin with.
University and community relations - D
Texas State students comprise a large percentage of San Marcos’ population, but there is still a disconnect between the university and the city.
There is a historical tension between students and residents, but the issue lies within the lack of communication and cooperation between city and university officials. The draft of the San Marcos Comprehensive Master Plan only mentions Texas State once among 113 objectives, according to a Jan. 24 University Star article. It is nonsensical that the university, whose presence is vital for the city’s success, was only mentioned once in a plan that will essentially serve as the blueprint for San Marcos’ future.
In addition, the city and the university have done a poor job of planning for the construction projects that are a ubiquitous part of Texas State and San Marcos. It is understandable that construction cannot be completely halted during the university’s academic year. However, it could have been planned so that university and city construction projects would not be occurring simultaneously within close proximity.
Construction and the traffic it causes is perhaps the most visible example of a lack of coordination between the city and university, but the problems are rooted much deeper. The university and the city do not appear to take the Achieving Community Together initiative very seriously. A.C.T. is designed to collaborate the efforts of the city and university on shared values and goals. It is unacceptable that a student undergoing cancer treatments, who was mentioned in an April 25, 2012 University Star article, was unable to break his lease with The Edge until the end of the spring after withdrawing at the beginning of that semester. The Edge is still a member of A.C.T., and this situation between the apartment complex and the student is a prime example of how disappointing the communication between the city and university truly is.
Transparency - F
In recent years, students have been lulled into a paralyzing apathy regarding their ability to influence the actions of the university, which is in large part because of their real and perceived sense of insignificance.
Transparency at Texas State is unacceptably low, a problem rooted partially in the way administrators work with students. In the past two months alone, students have been excluded from important decisions and officials have been uncooperative when answering controversial university questions. Incredibly important decisions regarding the future of parking permits and transportation were decided without three of the four major components of the university. Students, faculty, staff and the administration should maintain a balanced and open communication regarding major concerns, and the administration has left out the other three.
The decision to increase parking permit fees was decided in the president’s cabinet instead of in the Transportation Services Advisory Committee, which has faculty, staff and student representatives. The president’s cabinet is a closed-door meeting among top university officials, and they made their decision while shutting themselves off to the concerns and feedback of the rest of the university.
This explains why so many of the top officials are unknown to students. Trauth is attempting to make herself more available to students, but two open door sessions a semester only allows her to meet with .02 percent of the student body. Students cannot participate if they are not allowed to participate in the discussion.
Additionally, the administration has failed to rise to the occasion by answering questions regarding the alleged involvement of two softball players in a murder earlier this month. Administrators have created ambiguity regarding these allegations, which is unprofessional and demonstrates a lack of organization and readiness to tackle the issues—a common problem on this campus.