Though many students embraced summer as a break from Ann Arbor and University news, it is unlikely they missed the less-than-cheery letter mailed out by the University last month, announcing a tuition hike of $1,000 or more. Along with $20 million in budget cuts for the upcoming year, the University Board of Regents approved as 12.3 percent tuition increase for in-state students and 6.9 percent increase for out-of-state students. With reductions in state appropriations occurring almost annually, Gov. Jennifer Granholm has squeezed public universities to the point where tuition increases are the only option. Prioritizing higher education in reforming the way state appropriations are allocated will be necessary to ensure that universities are no longer among the first to suffer when the state falls on hard times.

Along with the budget, the regents approved a $1 increase in student fees last July that will be split between Michigan Student Assembly funding for student groups and the hiring of a housing attorney through Student Legal Services. An attorney dedicated solely to student housing issues will help mediate conflicts and combat student exploitation by landlords. But the scope of student housing problems spans further than the capacity of one attorney. Leases for next year will be signed as early as October, and MSA must take action now to push student interests and educate students of their rights. Students should lobby the Ann Arbor City Council to pass an ordinance pushing back lease-signing dates, allowing sufficient time to determine where and with whom they want to live next year.

Whether student demands will be heeded by City Council is another matter. The council passed an anti-student resolution this July, while most students were out of town, by voting to issue permits for street parking in the student-dense Oxbridge and North Burns Park neighborhoods. Eugene Kang, a student who ran for City Council, was defeated in the August primaries, but his narrow 95-vote margin indicated that permanent residents, like students, are eager for change. The creation of the student-run New West Side Association is a promising start to get students involved in city politics, and similar efforts to encourage local student activism should be continued.

Renovations to Michigan Stadium have faced significantly less student apathy than local politics. The athletic department has the opportunity to modernize the stadium by expanding restroom and vendor facilities and increasing handicap accessibility. The construction of luxury boxes will generate significant revenue for the department, benefiting all student athletes from football to field hockey players. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that these modifications do not jeopardize the stadium’s integrity. The University has one of the last traditional bowl stadiums, and the athletic department must not forsake its students and alumni by letting renovations reduce the Big House to a super-sized version of every other university stadium. Plans will likely be submitted to the regents before the end of this term, and the University should encourage student and alumni participation in the final planning stages.

The college environment often allows students to easily ignore all that lies beyond campus. This year, just as every other, it will take student interest and activism, spurred by those who see the world beyond midterms and football games, to get students involved in their community and bring about change.

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