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Don’t shoot the messenger: Meet the man with the job of breaking bad news to you

By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer

TOM SPENCER/STAFF Lincoln Crutchfield, Student Senate business manager. He believes the job is often thankless, but enjoys it regardless.
Lincoln Crutchfield, Student Senate business manager. He believes the job is often thankless, but enjoys it regardless.

Lincoln Crutchfield is in his first year as serving as the business manager for the University of New Hampshire Student Senate. Often, his work with budgets means explaining to students why their fees are increasing. Crutchfield believes the key to doing his job well is running the conversation on an even keel.

For Crutchfield, the best part of the job is when he manages to help keep costs down or constant for students, while getting the most out of every dollar.

“Any student can come up to [Crutchfield] and he will break down any fee and show them why they’re paying it, and where it is going,” said student body president Joseph Sweeney. “Whenever there is a potential increase in fees, [Crutchfield] makes sure students are getting their money’s worth.”

But not every proposed increase is received with understanding.

“When you look at a number and you don’t have any context, it’s really easy to say, ‘what the hell are you doing?’” Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield has rectangular glasses, combed brown hair and a trimmed beard which was featured on the cover of Main Street Magazine while the top half of his face was obscured by a dollar bill.

Dressed in a black fleece, grey shorts and boat shoes, he makes steady hand gestures as he explains various budgets, fees and committees.

“The cost of doing business goes up every year,” Crutchfield said. “That’s inflation.”

Crutchfield may know the numbers, but he works with people. He is not an accounting or economics major– he is a sophomore undeclared between English and history.

“English and history are writing intensive, and they teach you how to craft an argument and think critically,” Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield believes his interest in English and history makes him able to understand both parties during a meeting. As Crutchfield left class, he carried two books: “Snow Blast,” a novel by Neal Stephenson and “The Autobiography of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, or Black Hawk,” by Black Hawk, a Sauk War Captain.

He says one of his goals is to put a human face on everybody involved in budget meetings. This helps maintain a professional tone when the conversation gets heated.

“Listen: there’s always two sides to a story,” Crutchfield said. “English and history allow you to hear both sides before you commit to one.”

That attitude is where Crutchfield gets his motto for working with people: “…remain calm, because an explanation is on its way.”

How do you get under the skin of someone with a slogan like that? Suggest this: defund the athletics department.

“That drives me up the wall,” Crutchfield said. Crutchfield ran and did Nordic skiing in high school, but does not feel this influences his opinion of the athletics department.

“It’s an important part of the college environment,” Crutchfield said. “It’s good for camaraderie.”

When it comes to finances, Crutchfield does not see himself or the student senate as a force battling the administration. Instead, Crutchfield believes that the student senate and the administration are seen as adversaries too often.

“When you realize these people spend their weekends, their nights, their waking hours trying to keep costs down for students, it kind of connects that these people aren’t up here to collect as much money as they can and spend it however they see fit,” Crutchfield said. “They’re doing this because they want to help students.”

Crutchfield said most students are mature when a fee increase is necessary, but he understands the more “feisty” student voices as well.

“The default excuse is ‘I pay 30 grand to go here. Why isn’t it this way?’” Crutchfield said. “And that is a completely legitimate argument.”

Crutchfield admitted that he is rarely thanked for his work, but he said he enjoys the job most when he can make passionate students and administrators understand each other.

“My favorite thing, point blank, is when we aid in the communication between students and administration,” Crutchfield said. “There’s often this adversarial role between students and administration…the reality is the university doesn’t want to waste money.” 

Crutchfield aims to be an effective liaison between students and administration through gaining a deep understanding of each fee and budget.   

“Every student does a good job [as business manager], but not all of them have had Lincoln’s curiosity,” said MaryAnne Lustgraaf, the director of the MUB. “When he came in he sat down and really tried to understand our budget.”

This work means understanding each budget’s quirks, such as what portion of the MUB’s budget the MUB may use for fun programming.   

Crutchfield’s efforts extend beyond working inside UNH. He has helped coordinate efforts to lobby against tuition increases on the state scale. He recently helped to coordinate a pizza luncheon during which students were encouraged to write letters to their state representatives lobbying for frozen tuition.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Lincoln. He’s a quick study, a good listener and asks the right questions,” said Mica Stark, the assistant vice president for public affairs at UNH.

Crutchfield and the student senate have been working with Stark through UNH Works, a group that lobbies for more state funding for UNH as the state senators plan to vote on a budget on April 1.

“Lincoln has been a good partner for UNH Works and our advocacy efforts, especially with regards to getting more students involved in the effort. He is an effective conduit for us to the student senate,” Stark said.

During student senate meetings, Crutchfield tends to sit towards the back of the room 165 in the Paul College of Business and Economics building. He has his laptop open for note taking. He likes to be an active voice in almost every meeting. 

“An open mind is the best tool you can use,” Crutchfield said.

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