Aoun discusses tuition, classrooms

Aoun discusses tuition, classrooms

By C. Mae Waugh

Northeastern President Joseph Aoun made his initial goals for the university’s future clear at a town hall meeting for students, faculty and staff last week.

“I want to concentrate on excellence,” President Aoun said. “How are we going to create our own greatness?”

The meeting was held last Wednesday in Blackman Auditorium. It provided Aoun with an opportunity to answer two questions on the minds of many in the Northeastern community: Where are we now, and what do we want to do?

Raising issues regarding graduate studies, fundraising, university buildings and international concerns, faculty and students had the opportunity to question the new president and several senior vice presidents.

Money was a hot topic. Students and faculty said the university suffers from a lack of alumni giving, rising tuition and financial aid that fails to keep pace.

“Fundraising is not about asking people for money – it’s about being in contact,” Aoun said. “The huge investments given at high levels are no longer considered just gifts. They are now being looked at as investments. … The donor must feel like his money is going to make an impact and make a difference.”

Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President for Financial Services Chris Kelley asked the president to justify raising tuition each year.

Acknowledging it is something the administration constantly has to address, the president said, “The price students are paying is for a quality education – an education they can get here but cannot find elsewhere.”

Aoun cited co-op as one of the things that makes a Northeastern education unique.

He discussed constraints on classroom spaces, saying it was one of the things he addressed by moving all senior administration offices to Columbus Avenue, freeing up space in Richards Hall, Hayden Hall and other buildings.

“But it’s not enough to just move the administration to Columbus,” Aoun said. “We have to do more. We are actively looking for possibilities to do that.”

SGA Vice President for Academic Affairs MJ Paradiso asked what the university is doing to provide background for students hoping to go abroad.

“We want our students to ultimately feel at ease [going abroad],” Aoun said. “Are we doing it? I don’t know.”

Northeastern’s study abroad program has traditionally focused on European, Middle Eastern and African countries, but Aoun said he would like to see the university expand relations with Latin America and Asia.

“We cannot ask our students to go explore the world unless we are preparing them here to do it,” Aoun said.

Aoun also discussed building experiential education as part of the professional and graduate study programs.

“If we succeed in building these programs, no one can stop us,” Aoun said. “Our competition is not in Boston, it is worldwide. We want to continue to attract the best students at all levels.”

He said his overriding goal as the new president is to “advance the university as a whole, furthering academic excellence and focusing on co-op and study abroad.”

While acknowledging there may be problems in the coming year, Aoun said he plans to take them on as they come and move forward.

“I’m still learning – I’m going to make mistakes,” Aoun said. “If we want to be innovative, we are going to make mistakes, but we are not going to make the same mistake twice.”

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