Student creates petition to ask for NU transparency

Martina Viale FRESHMAN MARTINA VIALE created a petition to find out where the money from the tuition increase is going. Courtesy photo, Newman Advancement

Newman administrators have seen and discussed a petition created last week by a freshman who was demanding transparency about where money from tuition increases goes. But the school’s vice president for finance and administration, Jennifer Gantz, says administrators have no plans to take any action on it.

Gantz said that administrators discussed the online petition created by Martina Viale last week that said she wanted to know where money from a 4-6 percent tuition increase is going

But Gantz said a better route for students wanting that information would be to simply ask.

“If somebody has a question, I would hope in the future they would just come ask versus having a petition,” Gantz said.

Viale said she was motivated to start the petition after hearing rumors about where the money from the increase was going.

“There are people that say it only goes in one person’s pocket. Other people that say that last year, it was going to be for teachers to increase their salary but then some teachers said to them that it was not true,” Viale said. “We just wanted answers, and since they don’t give it right away or if they give it, it’s really vague, we were just like, ‘Let’s do this petition and see if people agree with us.”

The petition, titled “Transparency of Finances at Newman University,” received dozens of comments and signatures in the first few days.

It was initially posted on Viale’s personal Facebook page and other Newman pages such as those belonging to the Multicultural Leadership Organization and the Honors Program.

Gantz said that the increase mostly covers need-based aid and the increased cost of health insurance this year.

“Our health insurance for our faculty and staff went up 26 percent this year and overall that is about 1.4 million dollars,” Gantz said. “Need-based aide is the big piece of it, so when you look at the amount of aide that we give out over the prior year, I think that would probably more than cover the four to six percent increase, to be honest.”

Viale said she emailed Gantz to ask for an audit and was directed to speak to students Hibah Ullah, SGA president, and Angela De Souza, SGA senator, because they were on the committee that approved the budget increase.

Levi Esses, dean of students, said that De Souza brought the information from the meeting back to SGA and it went in the minutes, but he did not know if any students had ever seen the minutes.

Viale said she did not talk to these students because she felt that if the administrator could not give her the information, then the students on the committee would not be willing to share the information either.

“If it is so hard to put in a document, I did not feel that they would share to students,” Viale said. “If you know that you are doing things in the right way, then put out a document.”

Viale said that Esses also approached her and asked why she created the petition and she told him that she had heard rumors and wanted the correct information.

Esses also directed Viale to Ullah and De Souza and then told her that the increase was the higher cost of health care, Viale said.

Gantz said that admissions office explains to students and families that tuition increases are likely when they enter Newman.

“Any new student that comes in, they are trying to communicate that annually you should expect anywhere from a four to six percent increase,” she said.

Milica Petričević, a Newman sophomore and volleyball player, said that her rising tuition made her decide to to transfer from Newman.

“I think they should talk more about that because I have really no idea what is going on in financial stuff,” Petričević said. “We just get bills and they are not explained.”

Gantz said that she thinks the campus is transparent, but she sees where students could be confused.

“I could understand if you were expecting that same rate over the four years being a little bit surprised,” she said. “I don’t know that the president is going to want me to break down every single thing. My guess is she’s probably not. Not that it really matters. But I can see about getting some of that information.”

Esses said that he also feels that the university is transparent, but said that SGA needs to increase its communication with the students.

“We try to share as much as we can with students, let alone just blasting out emails saying ‘Hey, here’s everything.’ We have got to find ways to communicate that,” Esses said. “That is just one of the SGA areas that probably needs to be a little more improved in terms of how they are communicating.”

This story first appeared in the May 4th, 2017 issue of The Vantage