Students did not play 'Hardball' with Stewart
September 19, 2005 —
The Hardball forum with Representative John Stewart was billed as an honest, frank discussion with students about the state of higher education funding in Michigan. Unfortunately, with evasive answers to poor questions highlighting Hardball, the event should have been called "Softball," as it failed to offer little of merit to students in attendance.
John Stewart seemed like an inveterate politician, but most of the onus for the disappointing event cannot be blamed solely with him. Instead, many of the problems resulted from students asking weak questions that often failed to address serious topics for the campus. The plight of Detroit's public schools is a worthy topic for discussion, but a discussion of higher education funding is not an inappropriate venue to discuss this.
Students often seemed more interested in hearing themselves talk than actually getting real answers to important questions. Several "questions" were little more than glorified opportunities for people to make statements that did not warrant much follow-up from Stewart. When Stewart sidestepped a couple of questions, students did not follow up that line of questioning; instead, they were content with half-answers, and left the issues essentially untouched and unprobed.
As such, an important chance to question one of the most important politicians for SVSU students was wasted. The roughly hour and a half forum left a bitter taste in our mouths, as we wondered what might have been had thought-provoking questions been asked. When Stewart said that SVSU should be receiving the same state funding as the MAC schools, no one followed up with questions asking what Stewart would do to ensure SVSU actually gets this level of funding.
The event was not an entire waste - the event had an excellent turnout, showing that students do care about their tuition costs. Students also probably were not aware that SVSU receives under half the state appropriations of some Michigan public universities. And students probably came away with a greater appreciation for President Eric Gilbertson, as Stewart talked highly of him seemingly every five minutes and praised him for keeping the costs at SVSU lowest in the state. It is good to see the University's fiscal solvency being affirmed by the higher education appropriations chairman.
Opportunities such as Hardball do not happen every day, and it is disappointing to see something with so much promise squandered. In the future, students should make sure their questions address topics that focus on what is being discussed.
If not, then continued forums like Hardball will not warrant the time of anyone involved.