Student town hall focuses on budget


On Tuesday, March 15, President Fred Pestello and 13 representatives from his administration held a town hall meeting at the Center for Global Citizenship, where students had the opportunity to ask questions about issues facing the University.

At the Student Government Association sponsored event, some of the highlights of the evening’s conversation focused mainly on the University’s budget situation and the president’s progress – his two-year anniversary with the university approaches in June.

At the start, Pestello offered an update of the budget situation and the University’s work with Bain & Company, the private consulting firm that the University has hired to help SLU operate more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Pestello spoke about the discussion that took place prior to hiring Bain, which centered around how the University might not be able to balance their present situation alone on top of the roles they already play.

“We have a strategic plan and it’s an ambitious plan. We need revenue to fund that plan, we need revenue to appropriately compensate our faculty and staff and we need to keep school affordable for our students,” Pestello said. “We ultimately hired Bain & Company, they’ve done this work at a number of other similar universities … they’ve been meeting with faculty, staff students, literally dozens of groups, trying to collect data and information to begin making recommendations.”

The recommendations go to the steering committee, that committee will then present to Pestello, and he will make the final decision on where changes are made.

A senior student who works in the Office of Admissions, Jack McAtee, voiced his concern to Pestello about the rhetoric that is used in the office about the budget and the office’s need to cut down on costs.

He cited a restriction on printing and cutting down on other amenities that had once been offered in the office.

“The rhetoric that the student workers are hearing from the employers is ‘budget cuts, budget cuts, budget cuts.’ I have a concern of frivolous spending that is not student centered and is not in-line with the Jesuit mission,” McAtee said.

He went on to cite the new additions that have been added to Queens Daughter’s Hall for Admissions, like the surface tablets where perspective students can sign in, the photo booth and the interactive globe. He told Pestello that he thought these additions were unnecessary.

Pestello responded with opposition, citing the need to be able to keep costs low for students while also gaining revenue—which can only be solved by attracting more students to the university.

“We’ve asked every Vice President to be responsible stewards of their division. We’re cutting back on things that we find superfluous. You think that some of the things we’ve done in admissions were not necessary. I fundamentally disagree,” said Pestello.

“I’ve visited other admission’s houses at other universities and every single one of them that we compete against has a ‘wow factor.’” He talked about the win/loss ratings against universities who have better technology and the need to grab those students on their visits with more interactive technology.

When asked about his what he’s done at SLU over his first two years as president, Pestello reflected on the ups and downs that the community has gone through together, with the protests on campus and in Ferguson in mind.

“What preoccupied us all, I think, in my first year is what happened starting with the shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 and VonDerrit Meyers on Oct. 8. That was something that none of us could have ever anticipated, and that I would be dealing with that in my first year,” Pestello said.

“I am tremendously proud with how our campus, and I mean our entire campus, how we handled that.”

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