The Missouri General Assembly has voted to approve a state budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which will provide a 4 percent increase to higher education funding. There is concern, however, that the $873,000 in additional funding will not be enough to offset inflation for personnel salaries. Historically, when state allocations are increased, universities patch any holes in their own budgets, and then look to add to salaries for their employees. If the governor approves the General Assembly’s budget, this trend of adding to salaries will likely continue for Missouri Western. “Provided our revenue estimates leave us with additional funding after we cover our mandatory costs, it is likely we would attempt to provide our employees with salary and wage increases, and follow that with other budgetary adjustments if additional funding remains,” Cale Fessler, vice president for financial planning and administration said. Western’s Faculty Senate salary committee recommended a 3.5 percent addition to salaries to counterbalance Missouri inflation rates. The raise would provide the average salary with $2,102.10, which some believe to be a suitable amount. “As to whether a… increase is ‘worth it,’ the answer is absolutely yes,” Jon Rhoad, past faculty senate president said. “One must not discount the long-term, compounding effect of percent increases.” Though the Faculty Senate recommended a 3.5 percent bump for personnel, Rhoad is doubtful that the proposal will pass the Board of Governors. “The president is always careful not to promise too much when talking about salary increases,” Rhoad said. “I do not think that the salary increase will be that large. A 3.5 percent increase would cost more than $1 million for all faculty and staff.” Even if the full amount of increased state allocations went to raises, the $873,000 would not be enough to institute the Senate’s proposal. In times of austerity and large-scale state cuts, it’s rare for salaries to be a first priority for universities statewide. “I think most schools are using state funding increases to address inflation across their budgets so as to allow them to hold tuition down and keep higher education as affordable as possible,” Paul Wagner, director of the Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri said. “I don’t think many universities have been able to consistently give faculty and staff raises over the past several years.” In attempt to counterbalance inflation rates, many universities, including Western, provide “cost-of-living increases” to salaries and wages. The Faculty Senate salary committee has reported that since 2007, these cost-of-living increases have lagged behind inflation by 1.7 percent. That percentage lag has compounded each year since then, to the point that in 2016, faculty salaries are 3.5 percent behind inflation. In order to mitigate these inflation levels, the Faculty Senate has proposed a 3.5 percent salary increase. Without the 3.5 percent boost, inflation will continue to erode university salaries.
Student Employment Week took place April 13 through 17 and has had an impact on both students and their employers. According to Brett McKnight, Student Employment Coordinator, student employment week is a week long recognition of student accomplishments. “It’s a week where colleges and universities all across the nation recognize student employees on campus. Part of that week is for the student employee of the year celebration and also student employment supervisor of the year," said McKnight. Kay-lynne Taylor, Director for Career Development Center, believes the recognition prompts students to work harder. “When somebody is appreciated, they will almost always do a little bit more and a little bit better, and they just feel better. It helps our students understand that we appreciate their efforts and we appreciate what they do. As student employees, they are understanding employability, what they are doing in their job, and then they also feel like the future is a little bit brighter for them in terms of their career path," Taylor said. There are between 500-600 students working on campus. Though this week was dedicated to recognizing all of them, some students were specifically recognized for their achievements. This year, Steven Brown, a senior Supplemental Instruction tutor in the Center for Academic Support (CAS) was a winner. The finalists included Hailey Kober, a Career Mentor in MWSUs Career Development Center, and Matt Scholz, Resident Assistant. This year's Student Employment supervisor of the year was Karen Luke, Administrative Assistant of the CAS. “It’s a rigorous process; this is only the third year, so since then we’ve had more applicants, more participation, and more offices are starting to recognize the whole week or even a day," Taylor said. “We want to help students learn professionalism, etiquette, and understanding how to do general office correspondence, because no matter where you work you’re going to have to do this. We also want to help them have initiative, [we're] seeking to help them develop self-motivation.They are learning skills that are going to benefit them in the future." McKnight explained that the event has grown over the years. “We’ve seen an increase of nominees. All the nominees are great people and deserving of the award, which is why there is a whole week to recognize all of them, regardless of who won the awards,” McKnight said. Jamie Sweiger, Assistant Director of Admissions-Operation, weighed in that students are integral to the campus's functions, as well as student employment being a good way for students to get work experience. “They are critical to our operation," Sweiger said. Sweiger continued. “It gives the students a good experience starting out—something they can build with their resume. I like to offer to be a reference for those that work for me. I try to teach them things that I believe will help them in the work force." Student employment opportunities at Missouri Western can be found at Griffons 4 Hire on the Career Development Center's website by visiting https://www.missouriwestern.edu/careerdevelopment/.
This year’s spring commencement will have two student commencement speakers. Seniors Alex Atkinson and Ida Haefner were selected as this year’s commencement speakers. Haefner will speak first at commencement, followed by Atkinson. Vice President for Student Affairs Shana Meyer said that there were several qualified candidates for commencement speakers, which afforded the opportunity to have two speakers. “This year we had seven nominees and we had seven phenomenal nominees,” Meyer said. “Of the five that presented their speeches, any one of them could have been our commencement speaker. So, when the committee presented our options to the president, he said ‘if you have that strong of folks, let’s showcase two of our strongest students’ and that’s what we did.” Meyer said the two speakers will provide a good opportunity to show what Missouri Western is about. “This is just an amazing opportunity not only for our students that get to speak, but for our students who are graduating and audience members to hear from one of their peers,” Meyer said. “Every year, all the speeches are about Missouri Western memories and some of the transforming lives opportunities that Missouri Western has given these students, so I think it’s a great way to showcase everything that our institution is about.” Haefner and Atkinson will be speaking at commencement on Saturday, May 7.
As one Missouri Western Student Government Association legacy steps down, another takes her place. Western President Robert Vartabedian officially inaugurated Alec Guy as SGA president and Connor Samenus as SGA executive vice president for the 2016-2017 school year. “I’m extremely optimistic about what this administration can do and I know that we can truly make a difference at Missouri Western,” Guy said. “I earnestly hope to make every student’s college experience better in some way and to make Missouri Western better as a whole.” Former SGA President Ida Haefner gave an emotional farewell during the event. “This has been a wonderful year and I am not going to soon forget it at all,” Haefner said to the students, faculty and staff members who had come to the inauguration. Haefner also reviewed the legislative accomplishments of her administration and senate. Some of those features included the Saint Joseph Transit bus initiative, the placement of multiple water-bottle filling stations around campus, funding for new bike racks and, most recently, the restructuring of Student Success Act fee money. President Guy presented the six-member Executive Board during his inauguration: - Executive Vice President, Connor Samenus - Director of Finance, Matthew Scholz - Director of Public Relations, Gillian Evans - Director of Student Involvement, Mon’tra Qualls-Woods - Assistant Director of External Relations, Brad Stanton - Secretary of Senate, Logan Zorn The 2016 SGA senators were also honored for being elected to their positions. The new Senate will hold its first official meeting Monday, April 25.
After a lengthy discussion, a five minute recess and two amendments, SGA approved a proposal that would allocate for the next three years the $525,000 annually collected as part of the Student Success Act fee. The SSA proposal was approved 17-0-1 as amended by SGA on April 18, 2016. The final version of the bill would fund the student labor and operational costs of student service departments at the cost of $195,560, which Missouri Western would then save and put back into its operational budget. Each of the departments covered also will receive some degree of a raise under the proposal. SGA Sen. Breanna Bland was the lone abstention on the amended SSA proposal. She said there were several factors that influenced her decision to abstain. “I have spent this last week talking with students about the Student Success Act. After everything I have heard from multiple students, I myself had to put my opinion on this also from a student perspective,” Bland said. “Yes, there are several great things that the SSA would be doing for the university, but I also was on the fence about where I, as a student, would want my money to go… Because of those two things, and the idea that I was elected into my position not only this year, but next term also, because students trust me to make these hard choices as their voice. That is when I decided that I was going to abstain from voting on SSA proposal.” Before it came to the final vote, however, the SSA proposal went through two changes on Monday night. One of the amendments approved removed a portion of the initial SSA proposal. Originally, $4,440 of the SSA funds would be given to the university to go toward its operational budget and bring the university savings to an even $200,000. Under the amendment proposed by Sen. Haden McDonald, the $4,440 was relocated to the capital projects portion of the SSA allocations to bring the project to a total of $10,000 annually. This amendment was passed 17-0-1. Another amendment allowed for the departments who receive SSA funds to receive a raise if other departments would also receive increases to their budgets. This amendment was approved unanimously. SGA Executive Vice President Brad Stanton helped to guide the discussion of the bill between senators and members of the gallery on Monday night and said the discussion helped the bill in the process. “I think it definitely signifies that at Missouri Western, we scrutinize where our student funds go,” Stanton said. “I think it’s good that someone was here to provide the opposing view point. I was glad that we were able to ask questions, we were able to make amendments and make sure we put forth the best product as possible.” SGA President Ida Haefner who authored the SSA proposal said she was glad that bill was passed and thought the amendment to reallocate money to capital projects was beneficial. “I think the amendment will be good for it,” Haefner said. “I think that was something the students really had a problem with and I think with $10,000 going toward more student-based programming, I think it’s a good idea.” While the bill locks in the SSA allocations for the next three years, Stanton said that oversight should still occur. “Like I said, it’s a three year plan,” Stanton said. “If after the first year, we’re finding out that maybe this money is going to the university bottom line and something that we don’t want as students, then we should be able to step in to say that.” The next reallocation for SSA funds following Monday’s vote is slated for 2019.