Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Government, Student Population, and Why He Hates Those Darn Trams: With Tom Grimes

Quotes by: TheresaChristine Etim
Interviewee: Tom Grimes, Professor of Mass Communications

35,568 students have enrolled at Texas State this semester. How has this increased enrollment affected you?
“The University is a less pleasant place to work because there are too many people for the physical space. The campus wasn’t built for that many people. The place is crawling with people, and the town is less pleasant to be in. There are too many people on the highway….it’s just too crowded.”
Should the university continue to grow?
“It has to to pay for itself. Because with reduced state funding, the only place it can get money to operate as cost increase is through increased enrollment. And I’ve heard the university president say that on numerous occasions, so I know it to be true. Revenue is coming into the university through increased enrollment, so we’re in a trap. The physical plant itself is too tiny to accommodate too many more people, but we have to in order to pay for what it is we’re doing here. “
When did you start teaching here?
“Since ’07. So it (the population) was like, in the high 20’s (20,000’s) when I came here. And it was comfortable, now its not comfortable, and its going to get worse….I think as you know, and I can’t give you the source for this because I don’t remember….I think I saw it in USA Today…In 2012, San Marcos, Texas was the fastest growing city in the United States….people think, “oh, you mean Texas?” No, I mean the United States, and that’s bad…. I mean for a quality of life point of view. I don’t want all of these people here.”
Did the size of the university influence your decision to come here in ’07?
“It didn’t influence it…it was just…I found myself in a very pleasant environment. The physical plant, meaning the university physically speaking, was able to accommodate these 28,000-27,000 students. The town wasn’t just overrun with people, and now that’s changed. And it’s only gonna get worse. If the only way we can pay for this place is to bring more students in, well…I mean, that’s what we’re gonna do.
Records for the university’s yearly enrollment indicate that the university grows rapidly every year. How do you think this effects future students and citizens of San Marcos?
“Well one thing the city of San Marcos is doing well, or should be doing and is doing is they’ve ripped up all the sewage systems here….the water and sewer system, it’s a two year or three year project, I’ve forgotten….you can look it up in the San Marcos Daily Record….in order to accommodate all these people, because the sewage system was breaking down under the pressure of use by all these people. And so they’ve gotten the money to tear the sewer system and water supply system up and put physically lager pipes in to move more sewage and more water. And they’re gonna put more sidewalks in and more….so people can walk and not have to drive. Because when I got here, the sidewalks were spotty. I’d have to either walk on dirt or keep going back and forth to follow the sidewalks, they’d move from side to side, from the right side of the street to the left side of the street, you know what I mean? Now they’re gonna be solid sidewalks in a lot of places. And wide sidewalks so that you can walk and you don’t have to drive. That’s good, but you get a lot of these 20 year olds out here with cars, and they’re crazy. I mean, they’re just nuts. And they’re dangerous. A lot of these people are really dangerous…and I’ve got a $60,000 car I just bought, and these people could just, do me in! If that thing gets hit, it has no trade in value. Cause nobody will buy a car that’s been hit. Cause of car facts, you know, where you check on a car. And so I’ve got this $60,000 thing I’m driving and I’ve shouldn’t have gotten it, I should’ve gotten a $14,000 car, case one of these idiots hits me….I bought it in august.“
Where do live? Do you live in Austin?
“I live on San Antonio….West San Antonio Street here in San Marcos, and when the weather here is not…today is a terrible day. The humidity is just awful, but on dry days I can walk to school with no problem. If I tried to walk to school today I’d be sopping wet. But there’d be no walking to school if I lived in Austin, so I’m glad I live here.”
Have you ever taken public transportation? If no, why not?
“It’s just easier to walk to school or drive. When I drive to school like I did today, I come in at 5:30 in the morning, I mean, there’s nobody out here. I pretty much get to school quick, and park anywhere I want to.”
Speaking of parking, what significant differences have you noticed in terms of parking spaces?
“When I got here in ’07….you could pretty much park anywhere you wanted to on Fridays. There just were a lot of open spaces, because the way classes were scheduled. Friday was a light teaching day at Texas State. Most classes were taught Monday-Thursday, and you had fewer faculty. I don’t compete with students for parking….because I don’t park in student spaces, but…there were fewer faculty, and so parking generally was easier. Certainly no trouble whatsoever on Fridays, now that’s not the case. You better get here at 5:30 in the morning. You’re gonna be frozen out.”
How do you feel about all of the new parking spaces they have, especially the ones you have to pay for? Does that not affect you because your apart of faculty?
“Yeah, it doesn’t affect me because I get here so early in the morning. If I got here late in the day, I’d pay $14 or….what is it…$14 for, $12? I’d do it. Just get it parked and get to work. So I’d like to see more of those. Now I can afford it, a lot of these people can’t afford it, but…. I’d be delighted to pay $12 a day if I had to have it…if I lived in Austin and couldn’t get here…early in the morning.”

What he thinks about the Tram:
“I hate those things. Well, I mean, they’re just gross and they’re just belch and smoke, I mean they’re just awful and loud.”
What do you suggest for future students of Texas State in terms of the population that are interested in coming here? Would you suggest for them to find another place because it’s so crowded?
“No. I think this is an excellent university. You get a first class education here. No, I see nothing wrong with this place. I mean it is one heck of a bargain for students. The tuition’s cheap, and the instruction is excellent.”
What do you suggest for faculty such as yourself who want to come here but there are too many students?
“Well, it’s worse at The University of Minnesota, The University of Wisconsin, I mean, there are a lot of places where it’s worse. I mean, The University of Wisconsin, well its worse at Texas A&M. I mean, it’s just that those places are really crawling with students. When I was at the university of Wisconsin-Madison, which had almost 60,000 students, there were students everywhere. I mean, I’d walk into a room and like this and there’s a student sitting in that corner there, working. They literally…there’s just no place to be. I mean, they’ve got too many human beings on that campus, and that’s what I don’t want to see happen here.”
Is there a solution that you propose for that type of issue? Or is that something you think can’t get resolved?

“Well we had a solution going before the legislator killed it. And that solution was call Tuition Revenue Bonds, TRBs. And what a TRB is, is you can borrow money and pay back the loan with tuition…to build more buildings. And so the campus could grow to accommodate all these people, but the legislature did not pass the TRB bill, and so we can’t go out and borrow the money, we can’t build anymore buildings and so they’ve got to…you know, if the only way we can get money to run this place is to admit more students, then the legislature has got to give us the opportunity to borrow more money to build more buildings… to accommodate these people…and to buy more land. This place needs more land. It needs to expand.”

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