It is our distinct honor and privilege to serve as the duly elected student body officers of Baylor University. This is not a position we take lightly, and as such, we felt it appropriate to respond to the concerns raised in last Friday's editorial: "Student Government should better represent its students."
Let us preface by saying that we humbly accept constructive criticism from all constituents. We will consider it as we strive to serve the entire student body. We would also like to note that the student body officers and the Lariat share a common interest in ensuring that the student voice is clearly represented to the Baylor community.
Throughout this school year, we have focused our attention and efforts on three main goals we feel are necessary to articulating a strong student voice on campus. Our first goal focuses on building positive and lasting relationships with all Baylor constituencies. This includes the administration, alumni, faculty, staff and, of course, students. The second goal is to promote and strengthen relationships within student government so that all three branches can work together to serve students more efficiently. Our third goal is to strengthen the bond between the student body and student government. We feel this is our most important task. We have taken great steps to enhance the connection between student government and the student body. From the early stages of our administration, we have focused on making student government more accessible to the student body. This initiative took the form of several new programs.
Because student government cannot be effective in representing students' voices if we don't know what they want, we established a new program in order to obtain students' opinions. This interactive polling program is called "Issue of the Week." Since October, student government has gathered over 6,000 student body responses on issues ranging from parking to financial aid. We have seen fantastic results. Just this past week, student government handed out Dr Pepper on Fountain Mall and asked students to share their thoughts. This week's "Issue of the Week" focused on the how effective student government is in representing student concerns.
The facts we gathered have not gone to waste. In the fall, we were able to formally present our findings to the Board of Regents. Again, the response was overwhelming; this was the first time in many years the Regents had been given poll results that directly represent the voice of the student body. These have already been presented in a public forum (at Student Senate, which is open to all students), and we would be thrilled to show them to anyone who stops by our office.
This letter is not our first attempt to share our results with the student body. We recognize the students need better access to the information, but we would like to stress that we have fully addressed each student concern with the appropriate administration and staff. We are working to identify concrete steps that can be taken to improve each issue.
Through the polling, we found that the most immediate concern is the rising cost of tuition. When you combine this with a lack of increase in merit-based financial aid from Baylor, tuition hikes have become a significant burden on the student body.
We have had several successful meetings with the Board of Regents, as well as monthly meetings with Interim President David Garland and a positive meeting with President-elect Ken Starr. In fact, the Board of Regents is finding unique ways to address student concerns -- there is no doubt that you are being heard and we are making progress. We will continue to gather students' opinions throughout the remainder of this semester. We are exploring new ways to connect with the student body, and we encourage everyone to watch for further details.
In closing, the student body officers, elected by the student body of Baylor University, are fully committed to serving the voice of the entire student population. If, at any time, the Lariat or any student has questions or concerns, we would be more than happy to discuss those concerns and work together to find a positive solution.
Michael Wright, Emily Saultz and Jordan Hannah
Internal Vice President, External Vice President, Student Body President