Editorial: Forums: A missed opportunity

The attendance of forums for the restructure of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and College of Criminal Justice (CCJ) last year was terrible despite vocal student protest. It was partly because the forums were poorly timed and poorly advertised.
So this year, the latter problem was fixed for the forums about the new four-year, two-co-op option. Spurred by the mysterious, wildly-popular Facebook group “Fight for Five,”  administration officials planned forums to explain that the four-year option, was not, in fact, going to replace the five-year option. And instead of attending the forums to voice their opinion in a dignified manner, thousands of students joined a misguided Facebook group that never saw the changes it called for.
The university sent e-mails to students about the forums and The News published articles and staff editorials about them in our last two issues. So, how did it go?
Student attendance at the College of Computer and Information Science forum Monday, Feb. 22:  18. College of Business Administration forum, Tuesday, Feb. 23:  16. CCJ, Tuesday, Feb. 23:  24. CAS, Wednesday, Feb. 24:  about 40. Collective attendance:  pointless. (By the way, there are roughly 15,000 students at this university – but who’s counting?)
Were the creators of “Fight for Five” at the forums? Well, no one knows, because they won’t reveal themselves. But the forums were their – and your – chances to get some answers. If you weren’t one of the few who attended, we have difficulty taking your complaints seriously. It’s one thing if you were busy during the allotted times – that’s unfortunate, and if you still had concerns, you can still voice them diplomatically by reaching out to your Student Government Association senator, sending an e-mail to the appropriate school official or writing a letter to the editor at The News.
But if you are one of more than 2,000 people who signed Fight for Five’s petition, one of more than 6,000 people who joined the Fight for Five Facebook group or one of the countless students who has recently posted Facebook statuses slamming the four-year option — and you made the choice not to attend — what do you have to say for yourself? When you choose to complain at your computer and, in many cases, spread information via social media, you indirectly forfeit your opportunity to choose your news source and actively forfeit a chance to engage decision-makers. But what’s worse, you risk forfeiting your own relevance. It is easy to join a Facebook group and difficult to engage in thoughtful, earnest debate – but which do you think is more constructive?
Perhaps if more students had attended the CAS forum, or if more than 15 of the 40 students in attendance spoke up, they could have made sense of this quote from Dean Bruce Ronkin about President Aoun’s statement that the four-year option would catch on “like wildfire”:  “I believe that was one person’s projection of what will happen … that’s also just one statement the president said … I think we need to treat the president like anyone else in this room and listen to everything that he has to say.”
So anything the president says should be held to the same standard as a the freshman in the back row of the forum staring at his shoes? Aoun should know this university like the home the university bought for him, and he shouldn’t make ludicrous statements about the preferences of future students and the behavior of naturally occurring fires on a whim to The Boston Globe.
Nevertheless, the university made a commendable effort by responding to students’ demands. It’s just a shame – although, unfortunately, not a surprise – that students did not respond. The administration could have planned the forums at more convenient times, considering the number of students on co-op who work until 5 p.m. every day. But the intent was there – just not the thousands of students who joined “Fight for Five.”