Editorial: It’s okay to demand more of our administrators

William Gilligan, our interim president, has recently claimed that The Beacon has fallen victim to the “media environment where many…..pick and choose their facts.” Gilligan has taken it upon himself to respond to last week’s editorial, where Beacon staff discuss what they hope is the future of Emerson’s leadership. 

Gilligan listed what he considered to be “efforts the college has made to improve financial aid and support students,” as a rebuttal to what he considers to be inaccuracies in our recent publication. Let’s analyze this list of alleged successes. 

He claims that there has been “no large exodus of faculty, recent departures are consistent with previous years,” which the Emerson Staff Union promptly responded to on Twitter stating, “T​​he same cannot be said for 110 staff who left the college in the past 18 months.” With staff members leaving left and right, those who remain reported being short-staffed and strapped for cash. This is the union’s second call for increased support from college administrators, after many negotiated benefits were taken away during the pandemic.                                                

He claims that of undergraduate students in 2020, 66.7 percent of students receive need based financial aid. But this is manipulated information that can be refuted by checking details available in the U.S. News Report.                                                                                                                          

The reality is that 63.9 percent of students applied for need based financial aid in the 2020 academic year, 53 percent of students received some form of financial aid, but more importantly only nine percent of students had those needs fully met. Not to mention that on average, 49 percent of students take out student loans averaging $13K a year, that adds up to $55,164 of debt over four years. Our interim president believes that is some sort of outstanding achievement?                                                                                     

Gilligan claims there was no promise to reduce tuition, where we fully linked a public declaration to the college by former president Pelton to reduce tuition by 2021 because Emerson needs to “focus on diversifying our revenue sources and implementing strategies that move away from relying so heavily on undergraduate tuition as a disproportionate source of revenue.” 

There is proof that our administration understands that they charge an unreasonable amount of money demanded to their undergrads and made active promises to reduce tuition. Moreover, Gilligan is complacent, claiming the two percent increase compared to the previous years’ increases of three to five percent is actually an accomplishment. Considerably a bit condescending and elitist of a statement since students who had to pay a hike of $1,025.28 for the 2020-21 academic year, when the administration itself admits––and as our financial aid receipts show––the price was already unsustainable to begin with. So, a hike of any kind is more than unreasonable; it’s wrong. 

In his list of successes by the college to its students, Gilligan mentions the Tuition Increase Offset Fund. A program that simply freezes the tuition rate from the previous year for students in serious financial need which we have previously stated was unsustainable to begin with. Frozen or not, what Emerson students needed is an actual deduction. Students are drowning in debt, and this plan is still not enough to cover costs. 

It should be noted that we made a correction to our editorial where we discuss members of the Board of Trustees receiving compensation. To say that they are unpaid completely by the college might be true although most board members in nonprofit colleges like ours are normally paid by ETS, College Board, and ACT. However, information of the specific organizations providing this compensation is not available to us. 

An incredibly important point mentioned in our editorial––which Gilligan also failed to acknowledge––was the very present racial, antisemitic, anti-Asian, and student accessibility issues, that have all continued under his presidency. This campus remains very much predominantly white and there are far too few successes in accomplishing actual diversity. Our plea for a president who takes accountability for social threats to the student-body and honors the experiences of the diverse was erased in a single letter. 

It’s very telling that in his response, Interim President William Gilligan inferred that our editorial was spreading false information, and he had to set the record straight. Now that we have made those facts more than clear, we should be wondering why Gilligan has ignored the continued spread of misinformation by other known racist, right-wing organizations on campus such as Turning Point USA. 

Is there a reason that our criticism on the administration is more of a concern than TPUSA recruiting the help of FIRE to spend every dime, nickle, and penny the educational advocacy group can muster to obnoxiously drive a stupid bus around campus and promote their little club? 

The reason for our editorial initially, and the reason for this one now, is simple. We should be okay with demanding more from our administration. We should be able to see real and tangible change in our campus without that being considered an unreasonable request. 

In all of Gilligan’s fact-checking, there seems to be a neglect to address the crux of our critique: the expressed need for future permanent leadership that looks toward the voices of the Emerson community itself for guidance. Gilligan’s response ultimately reflected the Emerson administration’s sheer lack of comprehension and empathy for our opinions and experiences as Emerson students. We want to make clear that this wasn’t an attack on a single leader, but a call for a permanent president that reflects the values so many before have claimed to hold.