In an effort to ensure that the students of Rogers University retain their voice in the administration of the institution, some Tulsa state lawmakers have unveiled a "Contract with the Consumers" detailing the priorities that should be kept in mind during the ongoing debate about RU's future. The State Regents for Higher Education have proposed an overhaul of Rogers University.
"We wanted to respond to concerns students here are expressing and remind people about the most critical issues in the Rogers University debate, namely that the students come first. We're committed to strengthening the quality of higher education. We don't want the interests of students and the interests of the people of Tulsa to get lost in the shuffle," said Senator Penny Williams.
"The Contract puts into focus the issues we believe have to be addressed for Tulsa to get the higher education opportunities it deserves. It emphasizes that Tulsa is not going to be pushed around anymore, bowing to the wishes of other outside interests," added Senator Charles Ford.
"We think the Contract will help advance an open dialogue about improving higher education services in Tulsa. It's our hope that these discussions will ultimately give our students more opportunities, allowing them to earn marketable degrees in their home community," said Representative John Bryant.
The "Contract with the Consumers" consists of six points:
1) Students come first. We will not support any proposal that does not recognize this or that doesn't dramatically improve higher education for Tulsa students;
2) Tulsa will not trade a hard contract for a soft promise. The current Tulsa institution is working and improving. We will oppose changes which do not clearly and concretely improve the current system;
3) Any change must keep the buyers (Tulsa) in control rather than the sellers. When sellers control the market, the only cars sold are outdated model T's in limited supply. When buyers are in control, they can demand and attain state-of-the-art products. The buyers currently have a real voice and real control of the higher education marketplace in Tulsa. Whatever we do, we should not abandon the current market-driven system for a seller's monopoly.
4)We must be committed to making Tulsa's public higher education the most "user friendly" in the country. We must complete efforts to establish a "single point" of entry" and other reforms to achieve this goal;
5). A local "voice" must be maintained to achieve these goals. Let's face it. When you're "out of sight," too often you're "out of mind." Tulsa's needs will be better met if local people have a sufficient voice in the higher education decision-making process;
6) The bottom line is quality. Change for the sake of change will only benefit the few. Positive change must benefit the many. Our commitment is not to campuses elsewhere, but to the 10,000 Tulsa students who use these services.
"These are just common sense principles that everyone should be able to embrace. They have the best interests of the people of Tulsa in mind," said Representative Betty Boyd.
"We have a unique opportunity to bring about permanent and major improvement to higher education in Tulsa. If the recent interest and initiatives by the State Regents are solidified and turned into specifics, the results could greatly benefit our local economy," said Representative Russ Roach, chairman of the House Economic Development Committee.
On Friday, the State Regents for Higher Education officially proposed an overhaul of the current Tulsa institution, giving more control to OU and OSU. Senators Ford and Williams have asked the Regents to put the proposal in written legislation so the people of Tulsa can examine it more closely before a public hearing is held on January 15th. The proposed changes require legislative approval.
"Before next month's public hearing, we need to have a bill drafted that spells out the specific changes the State Regents would like to make. We're asking, where's the beef? Show us specifically how this will benefit the students and the people of Tulsa. The institution we currently have in Tulsa is a 21st Century model; we can't afford to take a step backward," said Senator Williams.
"Tulsa has been burned in the past by broken promises on higher education and we're not going to let that happen again. We need some concrete assurances that Tulsa will finally, after many long years of waiting, get the higher education access it deserves," said Senator Ford.