Vander Graaff: CSU administration should do more for starving college students

Abby Vander

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The Colorado State University community continuously demonstrates a concern for one another through programs to eradicate food insecurity and other forms of poverty. This has even become a key issue that the Associated Students of Colorado State University presidential campaigns have included in their platforms. But to truly solve these issues, we must reflect on why they exist.

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CSU tuition and living costs are large contributors to financial insecurity for students. CSU should place a larger emphasis on providing financial assistance to students who really need it.

Rams Against Hunger, a program run by the Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement office and its partners, states that one in 10 Colorado State University students experience food insecurity.

SLiCE office assistant director Jen Johnson theorizes that this insecurity comes from the disparity between income and living costs for students and faculty.

“CSU is trying to give access to as many diverse backgrounds of students as possible, which is a really important goal,” Johnson said. “When you admit people with more diverse or more intense need, and don’t actually backfill with the supports that are necessary, we start to see this gap. And I think that’s what’s happening with food.”

This would mean assisting students in navigating tuition, housing and other living costs.

CSU’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System report shows that only 63% of CSU students received scholarships in 2016-17, and 48% received loans. The average scholarship amount was $6,291 and the average loan amount was $6,921.

“CSU must place a greater emphasis on making decisions and policies that not only benefit the university, but individual students, staff and faculty members.”

This issue extends beyond students as well. Johnson estimates that between 10-15% of faculty and staff are experiencing food insecurity.

While active CSU community members suffer, the University caters to outsiders.

We continuously see renovations in more public aspects of the University, such as dining halls or the Canvas Stadium, when this money could go to current students, whether through scholarships, cheaper meals or repairs to our many run-down liberal arts buildings.

CSU told The Coloradoan it has spent $35 million on dining halls in the past 12 years.

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$11.2 million was spent on The Foundry dining center and renovation of the Corbett lobby alone, according to SOURCE.

These additions do benefit students, but that’s probably not why they were implemented. These projects were more likely created with the intention of impressing alumni donors and prospective students, who provide new sources of revenue to the University.

One selling point of CSU is its sustainability. On the website dedicated to demonstrating this, CSU advertises the new Rams Against Hunger Food Recovery program.

But under the question “What should I do if I run out of meals?” on the Dining Services website that students use, there is no mention of the numerous programs that help ease student food insecurity.

Once per semester, students can donate two of their 20 extra meal swipes to a peer in need, but are prohibited from donating any more or using their regular meal swipes on another person.

If leftover meals swipes aren’t redeemed, the profits are retained by the dining center, according to the Dining Services FAQs webpage.

CSU must place a greater emphasis on making decisions and policies that not only benefit the University, but individual students, staff and faculty members.

This institution has an immense amount of financial and intellectual resources. It’s time they are put to good use.

Since its creation, Rams Against Hunger has raised $88,454 from the community — CSU makes about this much on a year’s tuition from two out of state students.

Rams should take care of Rams, but by working for profit instead of well-being, the administration has exempted itself from its own mantra.

Do better, CSU. Your students are starving. 

Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at letters@collegain.com or Twitter at @abbym_vg