Editorial: On NDSU’s Supposed Student Focus

When students at North Dakota State think “student focus,” a man in a bow tie may come to mind.

Timothy Alvarez, the spiffy, hashtag-slinging vice president for student affairs, found out last week that by 2018 he wouldn’t be the poster child of NDSU’s student focus-ness. President Dean Bresciani announced Wednesday he was dissolving the Division of Student Affairs, terminating senior administration and rearranging lower staff members to other departments.

With looming budget cuts, the elimination of six positions will save NDSU $1.2 million annually. Bresciani said he chose these previously “unthinkable” cuts to administration before further cuts to academics, ensuring “that our historic focus on students will not be eliminated or diminished.”

He continued, “In fact, this measure is being taken to protect the student affairs functions and positions which directly impact our students.”

When separated into two worlds, yes — faculty has priority over administration. You can’t have a student focus without students, and we should primarily be going into debt to get a degree. But life in and outside of the classroom is too intertwined to pretend that these high-end cuts won’t directly impact NDSU students.

These aren’t fluff cuts. Losing Alvarez, deans of student life Michael Harwood and Janna Stoskopf and three more staff members hurts. These staff members have directly impacted thousands of students. To say differently is to blatantly overlook so much.

Alvarez has grabbed coffee with countless students. Harwood is a friendly face students can find hustling in the Memorial Union. And Stoskopf has been a steady leader at NDSU for over 17 years, working in all aspects of student life, including advising student government and working as the deputy Title IX coordinator.

Whatever Bresciani means by NDSU’s “historic” student focus is embodied in these staff members.

Not only should student focus-ness be a slick marketing tagline, it should be the primary goal of everything done here. It’s much more intangible than NDSU’s other selling points: we were founded as a land grant and have physical labs to flaunt our research. Student focus seems like a buzzword. Student Affairs fleshed it out, especially Alvarez.

On top of hashtagging #studentfocused 14 times this month, Alvarez judged a mock male beauty pageant, critiqued Little I speeches and marched in a solidarity demonstration on campus. This vice president talks the talk and walks the walk. (Imagine where NDSU would be in a few decades if Alvarez were given the same amount of time at NDSU as his legendary predecessor, Prakash Mathew, had.)

Dissolving Student Affairs weakens the main bridge connecting students to staff at NDSU. Sweeping the division under other campus areas is better than losing it entirely, but a massive void will be created.

As NDSU moves forward, we remind faculty and staff that you’re all here because of us, the students. Most of you already get this. But if University Relations is going to continue boasting its supposedly special focus on us, you all need to invest a little bit more — much like Alvarez and Student Affairs have done — starting from Bresciani on down.

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