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Below you will find print stories I wrote about various topics on my OSU-Tulsa news beat. 


OSU's shuttle bus

    When Cleo Gorbet plans to ride the Big Orange Bus, she wants the bus to have a working wheelchair lift and Wi-Fi.


    Having no Wi-Fi is an issue she deals with every time she rides, but every once in awhile she might have to deal with a bus that has no working wheelchair lift.


    BOB workers try to accommodate Gorbet but the bus she needs might not be available because that bus is picking up riders from a different bus that broke down, said Gorbet.


    Out of nine motor coaches, six have wheelchair lifts and three do not. Two of those six motor coaches are not driven and one has a broken wheelchair lift, said Jana Benningfield, BOB coordinator.


    BOB officials know they have aging buses and are trying to fix the problem. They are applying for a $1.5 million grant for two new buses, said Tom Duncan, manager of transit services.


    Winning the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will allow Benningfield to sell two of the three buses that don’t have wheelchair lifts and use the remaining one for OSU group field trips.


    OSU groups can rent the BOB and a driver at $90 per hour for in-state trips. Out-of-state trips are $3 per mile. All services require a 4 hour minimum charge, according to a trip request form.


    Ticket sales make up most of BOB’s revenue. Last academic year with repeat riders included, almost 31,000 rides were taken. In ticket sales, BOB made almost $243,000, according to a revenue report.


    The Tulsa shuttle service also gets some of its money from an Oklahoma Department of Transportation grant. This annual grant goes to OSU transit services for operating costs. The Big Orange Bus also gets $100,000 from OSU-Tulsa when it’s needed, said Benningfield.


    With field trip rentals and service five days a week, the buses are on a maintenance schedule. After every 7,500 miles, or every 3-4 weeks, the tires, fluids and other parts are checked, said Benningfield. Despite regular checks, the buses can unexpectedly break down.


    If the problem is easy to fix, the bus is worked on where it broke down. If the problem is more complicated, a bus is sent from the closest campus while the disabled bus is towed. That situation makes use of the different drivers Benningfield hires.

Benningfield hires drivers from Tulsa and Stillwater. The first drivers of the day start their shifts in their respective towns, said Benningfield.


    BOB drivers must pass a full background check and drug screening. They must have a commercial driver’s license with a class-B minimum and at least two years of motor coach driving experience, Benningfield said. Full-time drivers get full-time benefits and the ODOT grant pays for the drivers’ salaries. Repair money and fuel costs come from the regular budget, Benningfield said.


    Grants can be hard to get, which is why BOB officials look for compressed natural gas grants. They are more available, said Benningfield.




OSU-Tulsa loses a major

    Sydnie Sweeney does not like that her major is being phased out at OSU-Tulsa; the strategic communications junior is going to a different school.


    “I don’t have the means to go to Stillwater every day,” Sweeney said. “My options were to either go to Stillwater every day on the BOB, which I can’t do because I work full time and I’m a full-time student, or change universities. So I guess I’m gonna have to go to RSU (Rogers State University) because it’s the second closest.”


    On Jan. 11, two days before the start of the spring semester, Sweeney and about 34 other students received emails from their adviser telling them the strategic communications major will be suspended at OSU-Tulsa. New students will not be accepted into the program because the major is expected to be offered only in Stillwater by 2016.


    This decision came after OSU-Tulsa lost about $168,000 for the 2011-2012 academic year and about $192,000 for the 2012-2013 year, according to an OSU-Tulsa document.  It is projected the Tulsa campus is going to save at least $192,000 for the next few academic years until the program will be offered only in Stillwater.


    Students already in the program must follow a schedule of coursework tailored to each student. If a student gets off schedule or fails a class, he or she will need to take that class in Stillwater, which could delay their graduation.


    Suspending admissions to the major in Tulsa had been talked about on and off for about a year, according to Raj Basu, OSU-Tulsa’s vice president for academic affairs.


    The decision to suspend the OSU-Tulsa major happened on Jan. 9, when Basu met with Arts & Sciences Dean Bret Danilowicz and Derina Holtzhausen, director of the School of Media & Strategic Communications.


    Basu defendedthe decision to suspend new admissions to the program.


    “I think it is the best and most appropriate use of public funds,” Basu said.


    “We were spending a lot of money, which is not our money, taxpayer money, to offer a program that very few students took,” Basu said. “We were losing money every year.”


    With little student interest, Holtzhausen knew “ a decision will have to be made.”


    “I think we are all sad, but it is also no surprise,” Holtzhausen said. “The program has not been growing as we hoped it would, despite changes that we made, so we understand the financial realities.”


    Another strategic communications junior understands the struggle OSU-Tulsa students face.


    “A lot of people are independent,” Crystal Fields said. “We have homes. We have husbands and wives. We have children. We have jobs that we can’t leave, so it’s not an option to just head to Stillwater to take these classes.”


    In fall 2010 when public relations and advertising were combined to form strategic communications, the main campus had 284 students in the program and Tulsa’s campus had 30 in the program, said Karen Christian, senior academic adviser for the School of Media & Strategic Communications.


    Enrollment for OSU-Tulsa’s strategic communications program has risen and fallen but never reached the amount of students on the Stillwater campus.


    Basu explained why the program was considered for Tulsa’s urban market.


    “There are PR firms downtown, so we felt that there would be a lot of students who would want to go get a degree in strategic communications,” Basu said.


    “Unfortunately, that never happened.” he said.



OSU-Tulsa lacks SGA



    It might be difficult for Stillwater students to imagine campus life without a student government association, but that is reality at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa.


    OSU-Tulsa hasn’t had an active SGA since spring 2011 because no one ran in the election for vacant offices, said JJ Smith, OSU-Tulsa’s assistant director of recruitment and student development.


    The Student Government Association is a group that allocates student fees to clubs and organizations for events that students can enjoy, according to Stillwater’s SGA website.

OSU-Tulsa finance senior Jerred Smith said he thinks the purpose of an SGA is to give students a voice in policy making.


    “We have university guidelines,” Jerred Smith said. “We have people in place to set policies for students, but they aren't students. They may have the best intentions for those policies but they may not really align with the needs of the students. So I think it’s a good checks and balances kind of thing.”


    Oklahoma State University’s main campus has had an SGA since 1915, said SGA President Jamie Tate. The group has done a lot for students, includingbringing celebrities to talk with students and The Big Event, a large-scale philanthropy event.


    JJ Smith said she thinks students haven’t taken a leadership role for SGA because it sounds like a lot to take on.


    “It’s not just one organization with one mission,” JJ Smith said.  “It kind of is set to kind of oversee everything, be the student voice and I think that the name SGA seems like a lot to our students who work and have families.”


    With OSU’s large student population,Tate said he thinks SGA exists because students need some type of representation. If SGA didn’t exist, he said there would be a lot of students with unanswered questions, such as how to get involved on campus or how to go to certain conferences.


    An OSU-Tulsa student said she doesn’t like her campus not having a student government association.


    “I would prefer to have an SGA here because I live here in Tulsa,” Maye Jones said. “I go to campus here. I don’t feel like I should have to drive all the way to Stillwater to have access to those activities.”


    Jones said she would be willing to participate in a leadership role for an SGA at OSU-Tulsa, but her personal schedule could conflict.


    OSU-Tulsa has 16 student organizations.


    These organizations participate in and host campus events. On Friday, African American Student Association hosted Unity Mixer, an event to facilitate unity on campus. On Thursday, International Student Organization will host International Flavor Day, an event where students, staff and faculty taste the food and beverages of cultures around the world.


   Although student government associations typically oversee all student groups, JJ Smith said she thinks the organizations at OSU-Tulsa “as a whole entity do the same thing that SGA would have done.”



Bursar system different at OSU-Tulsa

    Transitioning from Oklahoma State University’s main campus to the Tulsa campus was a struggle for Elementary Education student Kali Alger, who had lived in Stillwater for three years.

    Alger didn’t know Tulsa’s campus didn’t have a bursar-charging system like the main campus. At OSU-Stillwater, she could have her textbooks for the first day of school because of charging them. At OSU-Tulsa, Alger had to pay her tuition out-of-pocket. Because of this, she didn’t have the money to get her textbooks all at once. It took her more than four weeks to get all of her textbooks.

    OSU-Tulsa has never had a bursar charging system in place for all items on campus, said Ron Bussert, OSU-Tulsa’s vice president for administration and finance. Tulsa students pay for items using cash, credit cards or debit cards. Stillwater students have these same options but with the added benefit of charging items to their bursar accounts using their student identification cards.

    Textbooks are the only items Tulsa students can charge to their bursar accounts. To do this, students must have a book voucher.

    To be eligible for the voucher, students must meet all requirements: applied for and eligible to receive financial aid; offered and accepted enough financial aid to pay for textbooks in addition to tuition and fees; and completed all requirements to receive financial aid, according to OSU-Tulsa’s book voucher website.

    Stillwater student Emma Saporito enjoys the convenience of using her student ID card to buy items on campus. The early childhood education sophomore said it would be “awful” to not be able to buy items with her bursar account.

    OSU-Tulsa has a contract with two companies: Subway and Follett. Subway is the only food vendor on the Tulsa’s campus and Follett operates the bookstore.

    OSU’s main campus owns and operates their retail outlets in-house, which gives those outlets access to the student's bursar accounts, said Kevin Holmes, OSU-Tulsa’s director of business affairs.

    Stillwater’s in-house system could not work for OSU-Tulsa because that campus has a smaller student population and is non-residential, said Bussert.

    It wouldn’t be cost effective for Tulsa’s campus to operate its own retail stores, he said.

    “Our population is small enough that it would be very difficult for a stand-alone operation here in Tulsa to really cost effectively provide the goods, services and quality that a Subway or a Follett can do,” Bussert said.

    Being non-residential, OSU-Tulsa doesn’t need the food services a larger, traditional campus provides, Bussert said.

    The Tulsa campus is “fortunate to have a very good Subway franchise,” Bussert said.



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