Student trustee candidate Cailee Griffin’s campaign agenda stems from a four-legged foundation based in the budget, education, student life and tuition; when listed in order, it forms the acronym “BEST.” While Griffin said this was unintentional, she does not shy away from how it reflects her passionate and vocal campaign for the office.
“Most people, if you’ve ever really talked to me, know that I’m extremely passionate about all the causes that I’ve been talking about; I can rant about it for hours on end, and I do,” the junior political science and international affairs dual major told The New Hampshire. “And then, this year, I decided that I really needed to do something about it. I had a lot of conversations with students who have been really frustrated by different events on campus, and I figured that I had a shot to make a difference, so I thought I should run for a position where I can do that.”
The first leg of Griffin’s agenda focuses on the University of New Hampshire’s budget and finances, in which most of the campus’ funding, per the candidate and the latest (FY16) revenue data from UNH’s website, comes from subsidizing student tuition costs (35.9 percent), with the second highest source of revenue being “auxiliary services” (24.1 percent of the total). Auxiliary services include parking fees, on-campus vendor fees and commissions received from vendors, and student housing fees, among other sources. The candidate explained that many of these auxiliary sources of revenue are good because they don’t charge students directly, the main downside from subsidizing revenue from student tuition.
As a solution, Griffin proposed that UNH should invest “their time into moving away from subsidizing things with student tuition and with fees that come from students in general,” stressing that student tuition costs only cover the cost of classes and not extra costs like student residence, which students must pay for in addition to tuition on its own.
“I want them to increase the auxiliary funding, but I want them to do that by looking to getting more commissions from vendors and hosting more events on campus that attract people to come to UNH and do business with UNH, as opposed to increasing prices on things that cost students money,” the candidate said.
Item two on Griffin’s agenda homes in on increasing the quality of education and learning for students, starting with stabilizing and improving UNH’s lecturer situation.
“One of the things that I remember when I was in Senate, students were really upset about the lecturer non-renewals [in spring 2018], because, for one thing, they felt that it wasn’t transparent enough, and there wasn’t enough communication, not only from the university to the lecturers that they weren’t going to be renewing but to the students as well,” she said. “…when the university wants to make changes like that, I think they need to talk to students first, and they need to do it in a way that students are going to understand what’s happening…”
On top of greater transparency between students – who Griffin said were “blindsided” alongside faculty by the non-renewals – and administration, the candidate said that first-rate professors and lecturers with “lived experience” are essential to keeping students on top of their major studies, graduate studies and internships. Griffin’s commitment to quality faculty stresses her commitment to providing the university’s “Tier-1” research and education experience across the board.
The candidate’s third primary focus is on improving student life. To Griffin, a significant way to achieve that goal is increased funding of the university’s Psychological and Counseling Services (PACS) and Sexual Harassment & Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP).
“We’re a really unique institution that has a program like SHARPP,” she said. “Obviously, the university invested a lot of money into creating SHARPP and PACS, and other universities don’t have programs like that…not every school has SHARPP or a program that’s even like it.”
To cite an example of her commitment to the two services, Griffin highlighted her support of previous Student Senate motions urging “mandated reporters” – who are required to report cases of sexual assault to Title IX offices and local police – to encourage those affected by sexual harassment and/or assault to get a victim’s advocate, a move also supported in the past by both the Graduate and Faculty Senates.
Increased emphasis on campus diversity also plays a major role in Griffin’s commitment to student life on the campaign trail, especially as the university continues to seek solutions and responses to recent events and movements highlighting the lack of diversity within the student body, ranging from the “Eight Percent Speaks” movement – highlighting that eight percent of UNH students are underrepresented students – to the Spring 2017 Cinco de Mayo controversy. The candidate said that improving statistic retention rates, especially for minority students, is key to creating a more “equitable” environment for students and local residents alike and approaching President James W. Dean, Jr.’s, goal of making UNH a “Top 25” university, as outlined in his “Future of UNH” speech.
“With that comes a level of responsibility and accountability. We need to be making sure that as we’re improving our retention rates that those retention rates are improving for everybody, and that the people who need their retention rates to improve the most, which are students of color, are getting what they deserve out of this as well,” she said.
In her fourth and final core campaign component, Griffin aims to tackle to long-time issue of rising student tuition costs, mainly by seeking a “freeze” on tuition costs. However, she stresses that her potential election to the Board of Trustees comes with a stipulation when it comes to voting on measures dealing with tuition.
“I think it would be irresponsible for anybody who’s trying to be trustee to make any promises about lowering tuition because, realistically, student trustee has one vote,” the candidate said. “If I get the opportunity to vote on lowering tuition, that’s what I want to do; if I get the opportunity to vote on freezing tuition, I would take that over increasing tuition any day. But, I also understand that I couldn’t make a blanket promise to the students at UNH and say, ‘as student trustee, I will lower tuition’ because there are other members on that board who are voting in a different direction than the students are voting, which is why I’ll promise that I’ll advocate for it, and I will bring this issue up to the board members every time I get the opportunity to tell them about how expensive tuition is, and our textbooks, and the cost of parking, and how just living at this university is so expensive.”
While acknowledging the limited power of her one vote when compared to the whole board, Griffin stressed her desire to bring greater “accountability and transparency” to the tuition process, as well as seek more affordable alternatives to traditionally expensive student material fees, such as utilizing cheaper and/or open-source texts, as well as utilizing increases in revenue from auxiliary sources.
Above all the details and segments of her ticket, Griffin emphasized that her campaign aims to directly improve students’ lives and quality of education, as many of the issues affecting them affect her friends, classmates and campaign staff, who, per Griffin, see a campus in need of reduced financial stress and greater inclusion for an increasingly diverse and active UNH community.
“I’m really passionate about the things that I talk about, and a lot of my friends are personally affected by the things that I’ve been talking about, and I hate hearing how upset they are by those kinds of problems on our campus…it makes me upset when I hear them talk about how it upsets them that UNH is not a diverse campus, or that there are these incidents of hate going on our campus, I don’t want anybody to feel that way,” she said. “And I’m really passionate about making a difference; and I think that when people are passionate about the things that they talk about, they’ll do a good job because that’s half the battle, is caring about the issues, genuinely caring about the issues that you’re talking about.”