Category Archives: Editorial

Tuition increase looms as UVI challenges continue

Patrice Reneé Harris |

uvi

Aerial View of UVI St. Thomas Campus. Photo Credit: uvi.edu

ST. THOMAS — Students at the University of the Virgin Islands will have to brace themselves for a possible tuition increase in the upcoming academic year in light of the university’s continued fiscal challenges. As the university continues to tighten its belt amidst decreasing government appropriations, increasing tuition will likely be one of the new schemes to improve its financial situation.

In an email on Feb. 9, David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands alerted the UVI community that there was a deficit in the 2016 fiscal year budget. Dr. Hall explained the three main factors that contributed to the deficit.

“This present challenge is a result of various factors, including (1) the drop in enrollment over the previous fiscal years from 2,700 students to 2,300 students which has lowered our revenues and unfortunately we have not made the appropriate adjustment in expenditures; (2) the drop in our government appropriations over the previous fiscal years has eliminated a lot of the flexibility in our operating budget; and (3) some of our accounting controls have  not forced units to stay within their budgeted amounts,” the email read.

In an interview with the UVI Voice on Feb. 15, President Hall explained that the units were not maliciously overspending, but accumulated unpaid bills that rolled over from the end of the previous fiscal year.

In light of such, President Hall said the university is introducing new monitoring tools. These controls include denying authorization for purchases that exceed department budgets, closely monitoring department budgets towards the end of the fiscal year, and bringing forward the cut off point for orders and purchases.

“All of us have to be much more willing to stay within the budgets we are given and not exceed them, even when they are good reasons to do it,” Hall said.

In an effort to mitigate the impending deficit of $1.4 million, the president asked each unit of the university to reduce its budget by 4.8 percent for fiscal year 2016. In doing so, Dr. Hall asked each department to ensure that the reduction in budget does not affect employees’ jobs nor the quality of students’ education.

According to Hall, the fall in enrollment by some 400 students significantly affects the school’s operational budget, as the faculty size remained the same.

“We are also attempting to enhance our revenues through various new programs and especially through an increase in enrollment,” President Hall said. “The university is looking for ways to increase class sizes but not affect the quality of students’ education.”

Though the proposal is not final, Hall said a tuition increase is likely to be among the new measures to circumvent the deficit. The decision will only become final after the president proposes the tuition increase to the board and meets with the Student Government Associations and the student population.

Zoé Walker, vice president of the Student Government Association on St. Croix said the tuition increase is warranted in light of UVI’s fiscal challenges.

“I can understand why the students would find this proposed tuition increase frightening. But our students must remember that UVI currently has the most affordable tuition in the nation as an HBCU. In order for us to continue to receive a quality education in paradise, the university has to do certain things to achieve that, especially in light of a decrease in funds received from the government.”

Walker is also advocating for an improvement in the university’s payment option, stating that the options should be more flexible to accommodate students.

“I also believe that the university must observe that, although it is not a drastic increase, every student’s situation is different and (we) should make sure we have appropriate payment plans available,” Walker said.

Though the fiscal challenges are burdensome, President Hall is confident that UVI will overcome them as it has in the past.

“…I am still optimistic about UVI and where we are heading,” he said. “We have had fiscal challenges for the last four or five years. Students should not be fearful that this signals some major problem with the institution, but it is just unfortunately a part of doing business these days, where you have to tighten your belts and ensure you are generating more revenue. Besides a tuition increase, we are looking at new programs that can bring more revenue to the institution,” Hall said.

President Hall will present a revised fiscal year 2016 budget to the Finance and Budget Committee of the Board on Feb. 22 and approval is expected at its March 5 meeting.

 

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Truth to Power: My Time in Journalism

DAVID B. GUMBS |

ST. THOMAS – In his 1839 play, “Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy,” the English writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton first coined the phrase “… The pen is mightier than the sword.”

More than a century and a half later, the idea that the written word could be stronger than any force of aggression or intimidation remains both undeniably true and immensely important. It is a belief that has taken hold across all of humanity regardless of borders such as nations, culture or language.

It is also an ideal whose usage – and indeed misuse – has shaped the course of history time and again, and will continue to play a guiding role for mankind as we collectively move into this new age of uncertainty.

Thanks to the astounding advancements in technology, the world is now more connected than ever before, and events that were once unknown or kept far at a distance from us can be brought to the attention of the entire world.

However, with all the potential for good that this can generate, there is an equal, terrible potential for harm; for we are indeed more connected through news as a species than we have ever been, but that same news also arguably less trustworthy that it has ever been too.

To easily have half-truths and yellow journalism enflamed opinions and stirred outrage and passion in the hearts of many, only to ruin the lives and reputations of innocent people by the time their falsehoods are exposed to the world.

In this time of both journalistic greatness and uncertainty, institutions such as the UVI Voice and UVI’s Communications classes are more important that they have ever been before.

Through my experiences in my Com 200 class, I learned how to do research, draft articles and write for an audience in a professional and – most importantly for news – impartial manner.

My time as a writer and reporter for the UVI Voice helped me even more giving me real, hands-on experience in working for a newspaper company in an educational and familiar environment. These two experiences have helped me immensely, and as we move towards a future where the power to become a reporter and change the world is at everyone’s fingertips, it’s important that we have a place that can instruct us and teach us about the enormous responsibility that comes with that power.

We live in a world where pen being mightier than the sword is not only a clever adage but the law, and in this world, each and every one of us has the power to change the world.

Black History Month at HBCU: Is UVI Living Up to the Hype?

ARIGE SHROUF |

ST. CROIX— Black History Month at a Historically Black University should be a grand event, but many students feel the University of the Virgin Islands is not doing enough to acknowledge the importance of the tradition this year.

UVI students acknowledge the importance of Black History Month to them and to our community. Even when they are unaware of its origins, they understand the importance of upholding the tradition of the celebration.

Black History Month was initialized as “Negro History Week” in 1926 by Dr. Woodson and was expanded by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) to encompass an entire month in 1976.

In 1986, the observance of Black History Month was passed into law and has since been a symbol of the accomplishments of African Americans.

When interviewed, over twenty students admitted to feeling as though UVI could be doing more this February to really highlight the achievements of African Americans and embrace the spirit of Black History Month.

“It is a celebration of everything that was done to pave our way,” SGA President Sophia Johnson said. “It should really be celebrated more than just one month out of the year.”

“Black History Month means freedom. It is a way of saying ‘we matter, we are here,’ and of allowing our actions to show who we really are,” said Gabriel Lawrence, a senior member of Brothers with a Cause.

The Black History Month display at Counselling and Career Services
The Black History Month display at Counseling and Career Services

“I believe Black History is very important to our culture,” senior Jermaine Tavernier said. “We could find more creative ways to celebrate.”

“Black History Month is about recognizing all the great people that came before us,” sophomore Kennisha Grant said. “We are not really doing enough; UVI could do more.”

“I like to be wowed during Black History Month, and I am not being wowed,” junior Pamela Muhammad said.

These seem to be common feelings among the UVI community.

Judith Rogers, Director of Libraries at UVI, said Black History Month is “an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of blacks to the development of the world overall.”

“It is a time to reflect and let the past motivate you to move forward and stay away from negativity,” said Paulette Jarvis, a recent graduate of the nursing program.

“If we want to shine the blacks, we need to shine our history,” Gabriel Lawrence said. “We would not be where we are today without it and we need to improve our efforts.”

But is UVI coming up short in honoring and observing Black History Month, or are students simply too busy or unwilling to take part in the events that are taking place?

Paulette Jarvis said, “I never have time to participate on campus, so I don’t really know what’s going on.” She admits that she has heard of some events happening on campus, but she does not pay them much attention. She is simply too busy to participate.

This seems to be true of many students on campus.

According to Sophia Johnson, “the biggest challenge in planning any event on campus is actually getting them involved.”

In an effort to encourage UVI students to participate, the UVI libraries have had 34 African Arts Panels on display all month long.

Students can stop for a few minutes at a time and learn something about Black Heritage.

Many members of the UVI community have stopped to admire the exhibit.

African Arts Display at the library on the Albert A. Sheen campus. -Arige Shrouf
African Arts Display at the library on the Albert A. Sheen campus.
(photo credit -Arige Shrouf)

Judith Rogers hopes students will “engage with the exhibit and learn from it.”

“Too many phenomenal contributions go unknown,” Rogers said. “It is for the students, but we can’t do it on our own; there needs to be collaboration for us to have a well-rounded curriculum.”

This month there were several activities on campus that highlighted the accomplishments of African Americans.

On Monday, Feb. 9, Student Government Association hosted an event outside student activities which highlighted the contributions of George Washington Carver.

SGA makes peanut punch outside student activities in honor of George Washington Carver.  (photo credit - Arige Shrouf)
SGA makes peanut punch outside student activities in honor of George Washington Carver.
(photo credit – Arige Shrouf)

According to SGA Vice-President Janelle Royer, the 30 person turnout met their expectations and she felt accomplished simply seeing the students enjoying a cup of peanut punch and dancing to the music played by the DJ.

But a 30 person turnout is rather big for UVI.

When SGA hosted its event in honor of Ben Carson on Tuesday, only ten students participated in the brain dissection at the RT Park.

Students watch as biology students, Nakeisha Prantice and Chenae Allen, dissect sheep brains.   (photo credit - Arige Shrouf)
Students watch as biology students, Nakeisha Prantice and Chenae Allen, dissect sheep brains.
(photo credit – Arige Shrouf)

The annual Man-Up event hosted on Wednesday was followed up by a tribute to the inventor of ice cream, Augustus Carver, on Thursday. Both events had much larger turnouts than other events this month.

This month Counseling and Career Services is also hosting a quote contest and several clubs and organizations have hosted movie viewings.

There will likely continue to be more small events throughout the month, but if students are not participating, will it ever be enough?

“We are doing as much as we can and as much as we think will be successful and have an audience,” Judith Rogers said.

Sophia Johnson said, “We are doing our best to create an interactive environment this month. We are trying to focus our efforts on stuff people will like and participate in.”

Gabriel Lawrence said he suggests we really take this time this month and use this opportunity to “show and shine the Blacks.”

We need make the most out of Black History Month this year and every year to come. This is an opportunity to make the university community acknowledge why it should be “proud to be an HBCU,” Lawrence said.

 

WAPA Creating “Fight or Flight” Situation in VI

WAPA making living conditions a “fight or flight” situation for residents and businesses

KHADIJAH LEE|

ST. THOMAS- It is in our best interest to resort back to candle-lit houses instead of dealing with the ever rising cost of Virgin Islands electricity. The Water and Power Authority, or WAPA, has made and continues to make living conditions in the Virgin Islands a “fight or flight” situation. Many businesses have closed because of their WAPA bill.

According to a Virgin Islands Daily News article published in June, “The V.I. Senate is finally seeking WAPA alternatives, but only after years of what many view as financial extortion.”

Not only businesses, but residents of the Virgin Islands have chosen the “flight” option in order to escape the heart wrenching WAPA bill. If only the Virgin Islands government had taken up the offer to sell it years ago, we may have been in a better position financially.

Many government officials rejected the sale of WAPA due to their inadequate ability to keep up with the current power bills.

According to a WAPA press release from the St. Thomas Source, “If WAPA were purchased by a private business, the V.I. government would actually have to pay their own power bills and would not be allowed to rack up millions of dollars in arrears and then stick us – we, the people – with their bill.”

The government has outstanding balances owed to WAPA. “The government owes approximately $20. 7 million, which is $6.4 million more than the balance owed at the same time last year. A normal paying resident who neglects paying their dues to WAPA would result in the cutting of power,” the St. Thomas Source said.

While WAPA rates continue to rise, salaries continue to stay the same at least according to us regular people.

 

“V.I. government and WAPA officials have known for many years that the diesel-gobbling, antiquated generators have needed attention, but what has been done – other than frequently raising our rates and raising the LEAC while we, the public, pay their salaries for their inept job performance,” a Daily News editorial said.

Matthias_stom_young_man_reading_by_candlelightMatthias Stom (fl. 1615–1649) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We, as the people, should come up with ideas to solve this money draining issue and put them in action. Luckily, some people already have implemented solutions such as solar panel installations.

Meanwhile, the University of the Virgin Islands also struggles with the ever increasing WAPA bills.”The university pays 51 cents per kilowatt hour, which in result adds up to $1.5 million a year,” UVI Energy Manager Courtney Mayes said. “We don’t get any outside funding and so we find ourselves using money from other departments.”

UVI has found small solutions  helping to decrease electricity spending such as solar water heaters and light installations in every building, chillers and LED lighting. The West Hall Dorm also includes occupancy sensors that save energy by shutting off lights and air conditioning when the room is “empty.”

“Since we have gone green, we were able to use 479 kilowatt hours instead of 675 kilowatt hours,” Mayes said. “We have saved at least $99,000.”

Other solutions we can propose is to invest in another company that can give WAPA competition. This approach results in companies striving to have better prices to attract more customers. It may result in any other energy companies and WAPA competing for better rates and WAPA being eliminated.

“A total of 27 companies submitted bids in response to the utility’s request for proposals which was issued in May,” Jean Greaux, Government House spokesperson said. “The RFP sought bids from independent solar power producers.”

Until a solution that works to end WAPA’s financial hold on us is found, “last one out, turn off the lights” According to a letter written to the Daily News by Donna Pagano.

College life got you down?

The Struggles of Being a College Student

Denae Fleming|

ST.CROIX— College students face the struggles of dealing with finances, personal life and staying focused through the different types of stress.

There is a lot that has to be considered when it comes to making those decisions to acquire a higher level of education to better one’s future. No doubt everyone would and should want to achieve educational heights, but for many, there are some obstacles that can get in the way and cause the journey to become quite a challenge.

Finances are one of the top reasons for students quitting or taking a break from college, especially for the vast majority of students who are low income African Americans and Hispanics.

Even with numerous announcements of financial aid that are being advertised and spread, some students find it difficult to really handle the demands of school.

“There were times when I literally ate nothing but Easy Mac and Ramen Noodle,” Marcos Castillo said.

Castillo was one of the many who left the island of St. Croix for the mainland in hopes of pursuing a degree that he was passionate about. He has now graduated from Columbus College for Arts and Design with his bachelor’s degree.

“Some kids don’t think about the other stuff. They just want to go to college and experience the fun aspects of college life, but don’t ever really think about the scary parts,” Castillo said.

Castillo had to deal with living in a place that was completely new to him. He had to deal with different personalities, find means of transportation, figure out how he would eat every day, earn funds for necessities we normally take for granted when we don’t have to get them on our own.

He had to deal with those factors along with studying for school and dealing with his personal life.

One might read this example and say, “Oh that comes with the territory of college life.” But, do we ever stop to think how overwhelming it might be for some individuals?

Code Red! Work Overload!  Photo credit: www.plymouthsouth.com, Tis the Season to be Stressed.
Code Red! Work Overload!
Photo credit: http://www.plymouthsouth.com, Tis the Season to be Stressed.

People go through life changing events that occur around their college years, especially those that go straight from high school into college. Many take on relationships, part-time jobs, and go through a period of figuring out who they are. They are just finding out what’s important, maybe discovering their spirituality, and even who they are able to trust.

These are normal processes until they go wrong for some students.

The relationship that was once beautiful turned sour and has an emotional toll on both parties.

The job that was okay in the beginning is becoming demanding and overwhelming on top of school work.

You start to question your choice in major and worry if this is the direction you really want to take.

There's much more than school work that is going on in the life of students. Photo credit: theprgirlblog.wordpress.com,  Stress | The PR Girl
There’s much more than school work that is going on in the life of students.
Photo credit: theprgirlblog.wordpress.com, Stress | The PR Girl

You are pressured by “friends” to do things you’re not too comfortable doing, like drugs and alcohol. For those who already got caught up in drugs and alcohol, it’s a distraction in school and you find a hard time pulling away from it.

There are many factors that contribute to the stress that college students go through. How they handle is what is important because stress will always be a factor in life, whether you are in school or not.

I created a random question survey on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands. When asked, 11 out of 20 students said they listen to music if they are feeling overly stressed out. Four out of the 20 said they stop whatever they are doing and go for a walk or some form of physical activity. Three out of 20 said they go for drinks and two out of the 20 said they simply break down and cry depending on how severe the situation.

There are healthy ways to cope with stressful things regardless of whether or not you are a student.

It’s always great to find a positive hobby that involves physical movements. You should have at least one person you can trust to vent your problems to and maybe even get positive advice from. Make sure the crowd you hang around or affiliate with is comprised of uplifting, motivating and positive people; if this is not so, you might need to reevaluate who you consider friends.

It’s okay to take time off when you are overworked. Your mental health and overall well-being is more important than any other factor that contributes to your life.

Relax.

Yes, it’s college and it should be taken seriously, but you need to give yourself permission to chill out. This only one of the many chapters in your life.