Campus, News

BU students petition senate, gather signatures for transparency

Boston University students began collecting signatures for a letter asking support for a bill requiring budget transparency among universities in Massachusetts, activists said.

A number of student activists said they aim to send the letter to state legislators, which would ask them to support a bill that would require complete university budget transparency.

“Stopping the rising tuition is a long term struggle,” said Brandon Wood, a College of Arts and Sciences junior. “Tuition transparency is one of those concrete steps that needs to be made in order for any of the other things to jump off.”

Wood sent an email to friends and groups across campus Wednesday asking for signatures so the letter could be sent Thursday by 9 a.m., according to the email.

The bill, commonly referred to as the “Higher Education Transparency Act,” resides in the senate after being introduced Feb. 2, 2011.

If passed, the law would require universities and non-profit organizations to be accountable for their investments, according to the bill. It would also disclose the names and titles of anyone earning more than $250,000 a year.

The bill also calls for disclosure of payments exceeding $150,000 a year, either to or from outside individuals or firms.

A few hours after the email was sent, 84 signatures were added to the letter, Wood said. Students from Brandeis University and Boston College were involved as well.

“We have all read the continuing news of escalating tuition, student debt, excessive executive compensation in non-profits . . . and other problems that show an unfolding crisis,” states the students’ letter, which was sent to Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, of Chelsea, and Sen. Cynthia Creem, of Newton. “We believe that the blame for this crisis can be attributed to the lack of accountability to the public.”

The educational lobby representing the premier private sector universities would prefer students, activists and parents to be silent and “count our blessings,” according to the letter.

Aditya Rudra, a School of Management sophomore, said the bill is a good idea but not a necessary one because BU’s financial statements and 990 tax forms are clear.

“If the issue is proving that BU spends too much money on something, that information is there,” Rudra said. “I can show you where the money is going.”

However, the bill requires universities to be more transparent than BU currently is, Rudra said, and the public deserves to know where their money is going.

Wood said although the big debate is about interest rates, he is more concerned with tuition increases.

“What are the factors that are involved in that?” he said. “[We can tell] by making it more transparent and seeing where the money’s actually going.”

Yayra Sumah, a CAS sophomore, said the transparency of BU’s payroll and financial allocations is only the first step in trying to bring an end to the constant tuition hikes and financial constraints students are in.

“Transparency by itself is not going to bring down tuition,” Sumah said. “It’s not going to erase student debt, but you at least have a basis for which you can hold institutions accountable.”

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