SOU News Today

Stories relating to journalism world events and particularly NorthWest news.

“He watched the south patiently, toward the mountains, not hoping or expecting to see the thin straight line of smoke from a new campfire, but merely watching because that was part of it.”

—   Stephen King - The Gunslinger
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SOU’s Expanding Horizons

Retrenchment may be the most significant problem our university has faced in the last decade. Everyone knows what is going wrong with the school but few know what SOU plans do do about it. SOU’s Expanding Horizons is a blog dedicated to investigating SOU growth and culture. In it students Shannon Houston, Ashley Johnson and Ryan Degan, research and study various issues from SOU’s declining enrollment, to what makes its programs special. 

Link to blog: http://souexpandinghorizons.tumblr.com/

A Tide of Apathetic Change at SOU

Hunter ASSOU

Those students at SOU who have little to no interest in student politics may be in store for a shock later this month with the major changes transpiring in their student government.
The Associated Students of Southern Oregon University (A.S.S.O.U.) have recently enacted a special vote, the goal being a total overhaul of the current student constitution. The proposed constitutional reform has thus far been meet with an underwhelming amount of attention from many SOU students despite the confidence ASSOU officials have in the new bill.

The reformed constitution is only two pages long, less than a quarter of the originals length. Andrew Ensslin, the ASSOU Speaker of the Senate/Campus Life and Housing Senator, says the original document was an unnecessary one. He went on to say the ASSOU government wanted a less complicated document students could relate to more easily.
Taking into account the changing times Sen. Ensslin said “The rules in place now (for ASSOU) are from a time where our relationship with the administration was very different, (a time) before State laws had changed.” ASSOU Chief Justice Benjamin Katz, the official credited for spearheading the writing of the reform stated numerous motivations factored in to the drastic overhaul of the constitution.
Justice Katz believes the document itself is outdated, pointing to the fact that is out of line with current State laws which mandate ASSOU. The Organ Administrative Rules (OAR’s) clash with the current constitution in a way which binds the hands of the student body at SOU. In addition to this the document has rules which contradict each other and contains lines which refer to administrators that are no longer in existence. You can find the full interviews of Sen. Ensslin and Justice Katz in the link provided at the end of this article.

This is not the first time ASSOU has attempted drastic changes to the student constitution. Last year’s administration had spent a significant amount of time searching for a compromise before it finally puttered out half way through the year. Justice Katz took up where the previous administration had left off during the summer of 2012.
Working closely with his fellow justices, Stephanie Keaveney and Kyle Ragsdale, as well as ASSOU President Joshua Danielson, the administration was able to agree on a draft to present to the students by the Fall term of 2012.

The new constitution shaves the original down to the bare minimum. The proposed document  lacks details containing only two pages as opposed to the original ten. It has completely done away with the student Bill of Rights and does not mention the Advisory Council of SOU. The Advisory Council being a collaboration of ASSOU officials who ensure the integrity of the student government. Representatives of ASSOU have said the simplification of the document is meant to help students understand ASSOU policies better as well as to give them an “up-to-date voice” according to Speaker Ensslin.

The proposed bylaws, which will go into effect if the Constitution is voted in, are extensive to say the least. They cover every single rule and regulation each branch of ASSOU must follow in order to ensure maximum efficiency from the student government. They also cover many laws which were not mentioned in the original document such as a more proper procedure for impeachment and grants a significant amount of disciplinary power to the Chief Justice. They tighten up the currents laws and remove the contradicting ones which some Senators believe have weighed down ASSOU for the past several years. A certain amount of hypocrisy ensues however when you take the bylaws length into account. It contains a whopping fifty-three pages of regulations which govern student politics and rights. This sharply contradicts the claim of simplification for the sake of better student understanding ASSOU officials have made.

Despite the major implications of this document, a significant portion of students at SOU are still either uneducated or uninterested in the special vote. Patrick McNulty, a sophomore at SOU, had no idea there was a vote on a constitutional reform until asked if he had voted on it. After looking into it however he found an email from ASSOU asking him to vote on the subject. He was quoted saying “I opened it (the email) up and saw like a fifty page PDF file. I just said to myself ‘eh’ not today and haven’t looked at it since.” When asking numerous students if they had voted on the reform the majority showed the same disinterest as McNulty. Keep in mind whether or not the reform receives more yes than no votes, it can only pass if 5% of the student body votes at all. That is barely over 300 students out of a population of nearly 7,000. A shockingly low set bar of expectation.In fact, Danielson and Vice President Robert Cochran made an announcement at the SOU Playoff basketball game on Feb. 20, that they still needed 200 votes, only one full day before the polls close.

Both Justice Katz and Speaker Ensslin have stated they are optimistic the document will pass. The underlying issue here being the message to vote has not reached the ears of students. The fact that only 5% of students are expected to vote shows a drastic need for change in the way ASSOU reaches out to students. Katz and Ensslin agree the goal of ASSOU is to get students involved in university policies. It appears abundantly clear this reform is not the change needed to get students involved. Maybe Speaker Ensslin has some ideas for better involvement when he runs for president in the spring?

-Ryan J. Degan

Kelly Moutsatson is a Busy Woman
SOU’s director of Admissions, Kelly Moutsatson, is a very busy woman. Classes and majors are not the only programs facing budget cuts as Moutsatson is dealing with staff and financial shortages despite an increased demand for production. I sat down with Kelly in order to discuss the many problems our institution is facing, including declining admissions, finances, student retention and Oregon’s 40-40-20 plan.
 One of the first things we discussed involved the declining number of freshmen applying to SOU. When asked if SOU students should be concerned at this fact Moutsatson responded “It would be wrong to tell anyone not to worry, as this is something that many institutions are concerned over. SOU is not unique in this concern.” She went on to describe how growing enrollment and decreasing amounts of public funds in the past have lead to many of the financial problems SOU has today. SOU is not the only institution in Oregon facing these concerns, she says, as a struggling economy and high unemployment have attributed to our current crisis.
Despite the decline Moutsatson seems optimistic when looking at the future of SOU enrollment. “Enrollment at Oregon colleges and universities fell last year, despite the state having some of the most ambitious higher education goals in the country,” she said in reference to Oregon’s 40-40-20 plan. In-spite of the declining number of freshmen enrolling, SOU still had a record number of students graduate last year. Noting how her department is doing everything they can to “make up for the loss of these big classes.” Claiming SOU has developed new strategies to bring in new students Kelly further points at reasons students should remain optimistic. SOU has held record preview events this year and a partnership between the administrative and marketing departments “have proven beneficial in targeting students that have an interest in learning more.”
For those of you who do not know Oregons 40-40-20 plan is a program with the goal of leaving every person in Oregon with some sort of education. Moutsatson went into detail describing the plan saying. “Oregon officials want 40% of Oregonians to hold a bachelor’s degree by 2025, 40% to hold an associate degree or credential and the remaining 20% to hold a high school diploma or equivalent.” While the plan has increased total OUS enrollment by a reported 1.1% Moutsatson notes how it will fall just short of its goal of completing 40-40-20 by 2025. We concluded our conversation with whether or not the plan will actually increase SOU’s enrollment “It is difficult to project as to whether the plan will indeed increase student enrollment, as Oregon’s high schools have seen the end of a period of sustained growth, and total high school graduates are projected to decline slightly in coming years.”

Kelly Moutsatson is a Busy Woman

SOU’s director of Admissions, Kelly Moutsatson, is a very busy woman. Classes and majors are not the only programs facing budget cuts as Moutsatson is dealing with staff and financial shortages despite an increased demand for production. I sat down with Kelly in order to discuss the many problems our institution is facing, including declining admissions, finances, student retention and Oregon’s 40-40-20 plan.

One of the first things we discussed involved the declining number of freshmen applying to SOU.
When asked if SOU students should be concerned at this fact Moutsatson responded “It would be wrong to tell anyone not to worry, as this is something that many institutions are concerned over. SOU is not unique in this concern.” She went on to describe how growing enrollment and decreasing amounts of public funds in the past have lead to many of the financial problems SOU has today. SOU is not the only institution in Oregon facing these concerns, she says, as a struggling economy and high unemployment have attributed to our current crisis.

Despite the decline Moutsatson seems optimistic when looking at the future of SOU enrollment. “Enrollment at Oregon colleges and universities fell last year, despite the state having some of the most ambitious higher education goals in the country,” she said in reference to Oregon’s 40-40-20 plan. In-spite of the declining number of freshmen enrolling, SOU still had a record number of students graduate last year. Noting how her department is doing everything they can to “make up for the loss of these big classes.” Claiming SOU has developed new strategies to bring in new students Kelly further points at reasons students should remain optimistic. SOU has held record preview events this year and a partnership between the administrative and marketing departments “have proven beneficial in targeting students that have an interest in learning more.”

For those of you who do not know Oregons 40-40-20 plan is a program with the goal of leaving every person in Oregon with some sort of education. Moutsatson went into detail describing the plan saying. “Oregon officials want 40% of Oregonians to hold a bachelor’s degree by 2025, 40% to hold an associate degree or credential and the remaining 20% to hold a high school diploma or equivalent.” While the plan has increased total OUS enrollment by a reported 1.1% Moutsatson notes how it will fall just short of its goal of completing 40-40-20 by 2025. We concluded our conversation with whether or not the plan will actually increase SOU’s enrollment “It is difficult to project as to whether the plan will indeed increase student enrollment, as Oregon’s high schools have seen the end of a period of sustained growth, and total high school graduates are projected to decline slightly in coming years.”

SOU Fact Book Shows Declining Number of Freshmen

The 2013 fact book provided by Southern Oregon University (SOU), shows some varying trends in students admitted as well as the status of incoming freshmen, among other statistics. For example the charts inserted at the bottom of this article show a slight drop in applications submitted to over the past two years,with a decrease in the number of applicants accepted. The numbers of students admitted do not vary greatly from year to year, but data shows how admittance has been steadily decreasing over the past several years.

One of the most concerning statistics mapped out on the fact book is the low rate in which Freshmen graduate over a six year period. On average only 34% of freshmen admitted from 2000 to 2007 graduate within six years. These students choosing to transfer to other schools or drop out all together. The six year graduation rate of transfer students is quite higher however resting at roughly 46%.

These figures indicate that the majority of students who graduate from SOU are transfers from other universities. This statistic may point out a strategy SOU can use to its benefit. By concentrating on bringing in more transfer students SOU seems to be keeping itself afloat through its current financial crisis. 

Another interesting fact involves the degrees in which students elect to graduate with. Business and marketing is by far the most popular major, containing more students than any other program. The second largest is psychology followed by education. Neither of these having near the same number of students as business. As we have seen with cuts to programs and classes, SOU seems content with focusing on its more popular programs.

While some may panic at the thought of the University losing incoming students it may not necessarily be such a bad thing.

A smaller school is a more manageable one. A smaller number of students may mean a smaller amount of income for the school, but it also may mean smaller class sizes and a heightened effort to keep the students currently enrolled. On the flip side if not managed correctly this could also mean larger class sizes and less qualified educators. As I have said before, without further investigation this is all speculation at the moment.

Below we see the number of incoming Freshmen who were accepted in 2012 and 2013. Information provided by SOU Fact Book (2013)

  

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The Importance of Enrollment

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Many currently enrolled students will wonder why freshmen enrollment is important to them at all. They are already enrolled so why does it matter, isn’t a smaller school better anyways? Well the fact of the matter is that the larger public universities tend to get more revenue from their students and the state. SOU is in rough shape and one of the ways it can get out of this ditch is to increase freshmen enrollment.

State funding has been slashed and Southern Oregon University, has begun to cut classes and programs as a result. Retrenchment, a lack of government funding and a struggling economy has taken its toll on the Oregon University System. Despite the fact that freshmen enrollment has stayed steady over the years SOU is still bleeding out fast.

In 1995 Oregon covered 50% of SOU’s revenue per student, now however the state doesn’t even cover 30%. In light of this SOU has been forced to raise its tuition substantially over the past decade, in order to match the income it is still losing.

SOU is just a drop in a sea of underfunded universities and will need to look towards itself if it wants to stay afloat financially. The current strategy seems to involve increasing freshmen enrollment by upgrading infrastructure and promoting SOUs strengths.

(Top) from left to right: Sage Piersel, Peter Eggleston-Connor, Dane Van Arkel, Jake Scott, 

(Below): Christian Chesterman 

The Southern Oregon Arts and Research (SOAR) presentations occurred this week. These presentation highlighted the extensive projects and research that Southern Oregon students have been working on over the past year. This year we saw a very different version of SOAR than in the past few years due to university wide budget cuts and ongoing retrenchment.

The first presentation I went to see was created by a group of alumni in the professional science masters (PSM) program. The alumni presented in the following order; first came Sage Piersel, followed by MaryAnn Case, Peter Eggleston-Connor, Dane Hane VanArkel concluding with Jake Scott. Their presentation entitled, SOU student retention-an analysis by the mathematics PSM students, studied the retention and graduation rates of SOU students. The room was far from packed but had an impressive amount of faculty and SOU administrators. The methodology they used may have gone over one reporters head, but the concepts seemed to be understood by the majority of the audience.

After using a process called the Markov chain model and compiling information on the trends of first and second year students at SOU, the presenters made a fascinating discovery. By analyzing information on students, the presenters could predict with 99% accuracy whether or not individual students will graduate from SOU, drop out, or transfer out, within six years. They are able to do this by compiling data which includes students GPA’s both from high school as well as their first year of university, total credit hours and living situations. They have done this with the hope that the administration will be able to see these trends and increase student retention.

The second SOAR presentation I attended was a reading of short stories by the very talented Christian Chesterman. During his presentation he read an excerpt from his work in progress collection of short stories titled Dirk Mudd’s collected tails: The mating habits of the common jackalope. It was a delightfully creative story about a poacher who turns over a new leaf and begins to protect the last female jackalope.

After the reading I had a chance to talk with Chris in order to gain a more in depth look at his writing motivations and styles. He informed me that he has been working on this piece for well over a year and expects to be done within the next. He went on to describe the difficulties he has faced in light of SOU cutting its creative writing capestone. Chris had to sign up for SOAR independently in order to present his writings. A frustration many students feel who have had their majors recently defunded or cut altogether.

strangelybeautifulworld:

nympherret:

like how much more obvious does this need to be made for people to get it?

this isnt even an exaggeration 
like at all

strangelybeautifulworld:

nympherret:

like how much more obvious does this need to be made for people to get it?

this isnt even an exaggeration 

like at all

(Source: america-wakiewakie, via bloochikin)

Recent developments involving SOU administrative President Mary Cullinan, have created many questions about the future of SOU’s leadership. If President Cullinan does leave SOU then a temporary president will most likely be installed. Katie Butler (Left) and Celia Johnson (Right) both seniors, talk about the possibility of an interim president.