News Staff Writer
Surveys and petitions circulated through the engineering department in February due to some students and faculty opposing the new enhancement fee approved by the Board of Trustees in December.
The engineering program at UNC Asheville partners with North Carolina State University where students pay a fee.
Andre Rucker, a senior engineering student represented the faculty and staff from his major at the Board of Trustees meeting.
“They have an entirely separate campus, known as Centennial campus, multiple labs, multiple facilities, on-campus professors and such that we are not offered here,” Rucker said. “And on top of that they pay for the majority of materials and supplies for our labs and courses. So we were wondering why the severity of this fee was up to $1,000 dollars”
Possible numbers for the fee range from $250 to $1,000 dollars. Kennon Briggs, the chair of the Board of Trustees, said the board approved $1,000 dollars to be a maximum of the fee.
The process for the engineering department to meet with the Board of Trustees involved push from students, an initial meeting with the former dean of natural sciences and the current dean of natural sciences and later a meeting with the faculty senate.
Rucker started the petition to have a reevaluation of the proposed engineering fee.
“As soon as we found out about it, I had 90 people sign the petition within a day,” Rucker said.
The faculty senate voted to recommend rescinding the engineering fee to the Board of Trustees, Rucker said.
“The main thing that got the senate very upset about this is because they kind of went behind everybody’s’ back to get this pushed in,” Rucker said. “They kind of used the cover of us switching chancellors as a means to push it through without having it looked over by the senate and everybody else.”
Micheal Stratton, chair of the faculty senate, gave the Board of Trustees copies of the resolution from the Feb. 8 meeting.
The first meeting about the fee listed where the funds would go, according to Rucker.
“The break-down that they gave us of the current fee is 50 percent is going to the STEAM studio, 30 percent is going toward engineering enhancement fees and then 20 percent is going toward academic affairs,” Rucker said. “The other 30 percent we don’t understand why they’re asking for that either for the engineering department because the majority of our equipment comes from State. They pay for all of our lab equipment, all of our programs, all that stuff.”
Joe Urgo, interim chancellor, said the percentages were not accurate in the Board of Trustees meeting.
N.C. State provides for the two-plus-two program at UNCA financially. Another component of engineering at UNCA includes some usage of the STEAM studio.
“So you have to take a course in order to use anything in the STEAM studio,” Rucker said. “And that course is open to engineering and art students, and only takes in about 30 students per semester. And none of our classes require it. The only class that really uses it is our senior design class.”
Sara Sanders, director of the STEAM studio said she hopes funding for the studio could help with management and purchasing supplies. Currently, programs or students fund the projects in the studio.
“Generally if its a personal project like sculpture, the students self-fund it,” Sanders said. “If its an engineering project its usually funded. Senior design is funded by whoevers commissioning the project.”
Rucker said the engineering department did not completely oppose to the fee.
“We are concerned and we are not asking for no fee. We’re just asking for a delay in approval and a redefinition of the fee,” Rucker said.
Cissie Stevens, member of the Board of Trustees, asked for more time to review the information given out by Stratton in order to make a decision at a later date.
“It seems to me there is enough discussion around this, and I think Stevens has expressed concern to perhaps take some time for further consideration,” Briggs said.
Briggs suggested to move the topic back to academic affairs for more discussion before anything is passed.
During the meeting it was noted that the fee needs approval from the Board of Governors, but the the proposal for the fee does not need to have a specific charge. If the Board of Governors does not approve the fee then it will be a full year until it could be approved.
“One of our professors, Dr. Bruce, emailed our representative at N.C. State, and she replied back with they didn’t know about the fee either,” Rucker said. “They didn’t know that they were imposing the fee on our students, and they also recommended to not do it because the facilities that we have here are nothing compared to the N.C. State students.”