With much activity revolving around the Division of Student
Affairs recently, E. Royster 9feels many student groups have been
forming their opinions of her with only half the facts.

Julie Pannuto
E. Royster Harper (FILE PHOTO)

“Sometimes I get impatient with what I call ‘running
with bad information,’ ” she said.

Few of Harper’s budget decisions go without drawing some
sort of reaction, she said, because almost everything student
affairs deals with is essential to students, so any cut comes as a
blow. Harper added that while she catches a lot of flak, this
doesn’t influence her view of her own performance.

“I get a lot of that — ‘we don’t like
what you’re doing, therefore we don’t like you’
— but that’s not what I signed up for. I didn’t
sign up to be liked,” Harper said. “That doesn’t
mean I don’t want to be liked, but that’s not the
criteria for doing my job. I have to have some backbone
too.”

While all budget cuts hurt, Harper said the one that hurts her
the most is when she is forced to hold back on leadership
education.

“There’s just some skills and competencies that come
with being in a leadership role that you get some practice with
— how to run a meeting, how to make sure all the voices are
heard. These aren’t things you just wake up and know how to
do,” she said.

While Harper admits that this service may seem non-critical in
the face of other services like SAPAC, she maintains that
leadership training is an invaluable service to students and
student government. She added that “it’s not and
either/or, it’s a both.”

While agreeing that, as a student leader, she believes that
leadership education is important, Residence Hall Association
President Amy Keller said she feels that leadership programs are
perhaps not so critical to all students.

“Student leadership is a great thing for students who want
to get involved in it,” she said.

“There are some student services that are needed, and some
that are required for further development,” she added, citing
counseling services and the like as “needed.”

In the past month, Harper and the Division of Student Affairs
have also received criticism for proposed changes to the Greek
System and reorganized counseling at the Sexual Assault Prevention
and Awareness Center.

Some of the more prominent student groups on campus that deal
with the Office of Student Affairs did not return phone calls
seeking comment this week, including the Michigan Student Assembly,
Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association and Black Student
Union.

Saying that one of her greatest difficulties is familiarizing
herself with all the constituent parts of the student body, Harper
said she doesn’t believe she’s been successful in
getting to know the whole of the campus community.

“We all talk as if there’s one student body, and in
sort of an abstract way, there is. But there are lots of bodies
that make up this body, and so I think MSA represents a particular
kind of student, I think RHA … represents a particular kind
of student,” she said. “I don’t kid myself that
what students are thinking and what they want, I know.”

In particular, Harper said she finds difficulty in getting to
know students that are on financial aid or have to work to pay
their tuition.

“Most of us don’t know very much about the student
that’s working thirty or forty hours a week, other than the
fact that they are working thirty or forty hours a week, and this
place is different for them,” she said. “You really
can’t be active here if you need to work. It is hard to be
engaged in an institution if you need to work.”

Harper added that the unfortunate consequence of this is that it
tends to bias the student perspective she gets.

“It’s difficult to even be in a leadership role here
if you are on financial aid or need to work, so really all of us
are hearing from a more privileged set of students,” she
said.

Harper has been working at the University for over twenty years
and formerly served as the dean of students.

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