As of Aug. 28 more than 2,000 students still had not received their financial aid. Yet, WSU spokesman Darin Watkins said this is not a problem, but an issue.
It has been two weeks since President Elson S. Floyd said financial aid would be distributed to students. During that time our reporters and editors have interviewed several university administrators and received some conflicting responses that have been dismissive and even accusatory of the struggling students.
Watkins’ out of touch comments have demeaned the seriousness of this very real problem. But more important, his comments echo the opinions of the university because he speaks on behalf of the administration.
His inability to fully explain what has occured reflects less on Watkins and more on the university’s handling of the situation.
Let us get something straight: students without access to financial aid represent a very real problem.
“The good news is nothing is really affecting academic progress,” Watkins said last week.
But many students have been skipping classes to stand in financial aid lines and pay for the very classes they should be attending. To study, students have been forced to borrow books from the library – books that may not even be available due to high demand.
And those who live off campus face even more challenges in paying rent and buying groceries. The local food bank has seen an uptick in the number of students who have been unable to buy food due to late financial aid.
However, Watkins said the university has heard of less than a handful of cases where students off campus have been affected by late financial aid.
In short, the university’s response to these students’ problems – not issues – has been appalling.
As if the university's lack of connection with the student body wasn’t bad enough, administrators cannot even get their stories straight among one another.
In one of our first interviews, Floyd said the university was working on the problem and bringing a team from Oracle, the software company that sold Zzusis to the university, to fix the computer system.
However, in a later interview, Viji Murali, vice president for information services, said the glitch that caused Zzusis’ financial aid module to fail was fixed a week before.
In response to questions about this confusion, Watkins said, “You expect the president to know what is going on?”
Yes, Mr. Watkins, we expect the people who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to run the university to know what is going on when thousands of students haven’t received their financial aid.
But more importantly, we expect the facts to line up and administrators to communicate effectively with the student body, the student newspaper and each other.
Instead, Chio Flores, director of financial aid and scholarships, has ignored reporters, Murali told us the problem had been fixed, Floyd said he didn’t know what was going on, all while the university spokesman has diminished the severity of the problem.
Officials need to understand what is going on in the very university they oversee and hold each other accountable for their individual responsibilities by whatever means possible.
Clearly, the university’s administration has not been functioning effectively, and while we cannot know whether this stems from a lack of communication between departments or misleading information, the student body deserves better.