Editorial: The Shock the Future referendum is far from equitable


If you plan to vote yes on the Shock the Future referendum, do so with a purpose. Vote yes not because projects sound good in theory, but because you feel they equitably represent the interests of Wichita State students.

Otherwise, vote no.

Liberal Arts and Sciences, whose students make up more than a third of the student body, get a mere 2.3 percent of the $38.6 million that will be raised if the referendum passes. If each student’s $6 per credit hour went towards infrastructure priorities in their own college, LAS would get $10 million.

But this infrastructure proposal isn’t about equitable distribution of funds. It’s about cobbling together the right assortment of projects to get students to pay $20 million for a new business building — a building that donors already raised $30 million for with the expectation that the university would cover the rest.

Don’t vote yes because you feel guilted into “paying it forward.” The cost of college is astronomical, and if the referendum passes, WSU will have the highest student fees of any university in the state. Yes, Kansas has not invested in higher education in recent years, but it’s not up to students to bear the financial burden of a shiny new recruiting tool for the university.

If you’re a business student, you might as well vote yes. You’ll be paying for a new building regardless. Officials have acknowledged that the backup plan is a $30-$35 per credit hour business-specific fee hike, and any vote on such a fee is likely a formality.

In fact, administrators are counting on you to be so opposed to doubling your program-specific fees that you turn out in droves to support a comparatively minor $6 per credit hour increase.

WSU is just now getting around to asking students if they want to pay for a new building, even though they knew full well students would have to cough up the rest when they promised donors $20 million would come from university funds.

Administrators openly admitted that WSU was in no position to bond money two years ago when it was a compelling argument for building a campus YMCA instead of renovating the Heskett Center. Don’t worry, students paid for the YMCA partnership, too.

The only thing university officials learned from the YMCA debate is that students don’t take kindly to having no say in what they pay for. What administrators would be well-served to learn from this referendum is that hosting dozens of town halls where students can ask questions but have no say in workshopping priorities or funding models doesn’t constitute a “student-driven” label.

Just like with the YMCA, when much-needed upgrades to the wellness center were held hostage as a reason for students to support the partnership, Fine Arts priorities that were long neglected have now been rolled into the Shock the Future initiative.

Certain changes in Henrion Hall must be made for “health and safety” reasons, Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall told The Sunflower. Those changes will have to be made, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

But Fine Arts deserves more than the bare minimum. WSU should invest in Fine Arts — not just use their projects to sweeten the deal in an effort to pass a business-centric referendum.

The Sunflower applauds the student members of the Shock the Future steering committee for caring enough about WSU to inform students of pertinent issues, but committee members were tasked only with disseminating information — not shaping the initiative.

If this referendum fails, it’s not because students don’t support investing in the school. It’s because they’ve had enough of being told what they want by administrators.

If WSU wants a truly student-driven initiative, they should scrap this referendum and engage with students in a transparent effort to find out what projects they’re willing to invest in. Ask students what they want before promising away their money.