Featured Testimonial:

UC's obsession with enrollment & disregard for academic mission, shown through one program

In the fall of 2015, The Digital Media Collaborative (DMC) program was officially inaugurated at the University of Cincinnati. When reviewing the 2015 course offerings (below), which lays out the required classes and external opportunities for participating students, it’s easy to see why the program generated such a buzz. Over the course of 4 years, enrollees would receive thorough instruction in the digital media arena of their choice, with cross disciplinary electives in affiliated colleges and internship opportunities in media hubs like Los Angeles. For a lot of prospective DMC students, the promise of real world experience on production sets and under experienced practitioners, opportunities incredibly hard to come by in these fields, was what encouraged them to enroll. 

DMC's initial curriculum. No LA internship was ever actually made available to students.

However, over the next few years the seams of the program quickly began to unravel. Nathan Epstein, a 4th year in the major, could feel a shift taking place: “they didn’t care about educational value. They wanted tuition dollars.” [1] He noted several troubling instances of disorganization during his time in the program, including instructors repeatedly showing up late or not at all to class, redundant course material, advanced courses with instructors who weren’t adequately knowledgeable to properly teach them, and many other glaring examples of incoordination.

 

All of this becomes even grimmer when reviewing the contracts of the initial directors, Matt Irvine and Kristyn Benedyk; $30,000-40,000 in incentives would be awarded to each if they were able to meet a certain threshold of enrollment growth over the first three years. [2] While the contracts were amended before the stated three years passed, it nevertheless showed an initial commitment by the university to use the DMC as a vehicle for securing enrollments rather than providing a quality education. 

From Matt Irvine's contract.

It also means UC broke the law - under the federal Higher Education Act, financial bonuses “based directly or indirectly on success in securing enrollments” are explicitly prohibited. [3] If all of this wasn’t bad enough, Matt Irvine, the initial director of the DMC, was dismissed from the University amid allegations of Title IX violations and several instances of on-campus behavior that required UCPD intervention. [4]

 

After Irvine’s dismissal and Benedyk’s eventual resignation, the program began a period of restructuring. When reviewing the 2018’s course curriculum side-by-side with the initial one from 2015, the comparison is sobering: the total number of classes offered dropped by half, with most replaced by watered-down electives, and virtually all of the internship and outside work opportunities offered in the beginning were gone. 

First 2 pages of the DMC course list. Note that just two years later, the major was reduced almost entirely to electives, and there are no more flashy internships offered. Asking students to piece together their education with electives is not meaningful because they are learning random, unconnected topics. A program should be structured and intentional: starting with foundational knowledge so an individual can build up to more refined and specialized classes.

Misaligned priorities are evident throughout UC, but it's not often that they are so unmistakably clear. Instead of investing the energy to build a meaningful program, the DMC leadership focused instead on boosting enrollment per the University’s directive. Both on the micro and macro scale, UC is consumed by marketing initiatives that ultimately jeopardize the quality of education that is provided at the school. Spending problems and administrative bloat are transforming UC, and virtually all American universities, from institutions of higher education to institutions for generating profits.

 

While in the program, students like Nathan Epstein and Abby Schlembach, a graduate of the program in 2019, spent a sizable portion of their time pleading with faculty, administrators, and deans to fix the growing problems in their major: their requests and pleas for help were mainly met with indignation and silence. This shows that if we aspire to correct the problems we face at our university, we’ll need to do it through student-led initiatives that demand structures of accountability, total transparency and ones willing to take action against the corrupt structures in place.

More Testimonials:

Administrative over-spending and profit-first decision making have done very real harm to programs, departments, students, and faculty at UC. Here are some of their stories.

Each was submitted to us with or without names. We decided to publish them anonymously for their safety.

"Classes are overfilled. The school wants more students and more tuition for their fat pockets. Honor students are babied while normal students are neglected. Housing is a crisis as it’s either uptown or some slumped. It’s a messy situation and the school only cares about more $$$."

"This is dissapointing. As a student who loved this university so much I expect more. I expect the university to fund Aunt Flow menstrual products on campus. It is a fraction of the cost compared to what they make."

"Take a look at this too... (link). IT is overworked, underpayed, understaffed and not invested in."

"I am unhappy with the way our university spends our money. I feel like i get little to no attention from my professors and have minimal recourses and a high tuition. My brother is literally going to an Ivy League school for almost free and i got $0.00 from the university of Cincinnati. Stop going for numbers and focus on lowering the cost of tuition. I also can not reach my advisor until spring semester. I am paying for an advisor and i should have access."

"The university needs to pay more attention to student needs rather than updating Nippert every single year.

Let’s start with school safety, there used to be campus watch, that would patrol on and off campus areas to make sure everyone and everything was safe. There also used to be front desk attendants in the dorms that would check students and their guests in and out on a regular basis. Those have seemingly disappeared which would explain the apparent uprise in crime in and around campus. It’s seems like every other day there is a new UCPD alert notifying us about a person, or building that has been violated.

 

Secondly, there are resources that we have that they just don’t make an effort to notify students about. Apparently everyone has a career advisor that’s supposed to help them send in job applications and get internships which I just found out a few months ago that this resource was available.

The dining halls, specifically speaking about center court, are disgraceful. It’s dark, disgusting, and dirty. Once I was getting myself a bagel and a roach was crawling inside of the bread box. They think that serving food such as a hotdog with a side of beans and a disgusting dried out meat patty on top of two slices of white bread (there is photo evidence) is substantial. For the amount of money coming into this university you would think that they would provide filling satisfactory meals for their students, but it is evident that they just don’t care.

Lastly, the student rewards such as the fall and spring concerts, are always a joke. They hire the cheapest performers that they can get or they charge students (for an event that is supposed to be free) and then threaten to cancel the event because of their own terrible event organization skills. I love my university but there needs to be a shift in focus from the athletes to everyone else."

"I work two different office jobs on campus. My wages are capped, I'm sure, mostly because of BS like this... I don't think that people understand that the University is literally profiting off of FREE LABOR from its students at this point. I have to meet the deadlines that are set before me. I don't know who's doing the math at the employment accounting offices... There's a gatekeeper there that knew about some of this foul play, well before this website got published. Thank you to the data team that posted this site!! I will be looking to transfer schools come spring... P.S the tenured professors at UC are pretty shit as well, honestly. Some colleges/departments are probably in need of cleaning house completely. Where my college of law alums at?"

"They refuse to hire my lab supervisor as full time staff. Because of this, she runs out of hours half way though the week and can’t supervise our labs. They also say she isn’t allowed to clock in for overtime anymore either."

"I paid 2500 dollars for a meal plan at food Courts with over 90 health code violations."

"The spending is also at a large cost to students. On the housing webpages of UC, the university now leases apartments around the Clifton area to house students, while simultaneously building and renovating new residence halls in a cost- and space-inefficient way. The last 3 residence halls built/renovated at UC, Morgens, Scioto, and Marian-Spencer Hall, are all more expensive for students than more traditional housing options.

 

With the goals of the administration to increase enrollment number to about 60,000, there simply is not enough room on campus for students. This puts students, especially any that have difficulty affording college, in positions where they must live off-campus or in more expensive housing as opposed to affordable initiatives to make costs for college more obtainable for students.

 

Meanwhile, programs are critically undercut by new contruction, such as the new Nippert Stadium press-box built around 2014. This press box offered zero value to students, only using space for VIP and donor viewing as well as sponsorship for home football games. Other buildings are in dire need of assistance, such as Dabney Hall, which houses hundreds of students. Yet a new coat of paint was slapped on it and it was considered updated.

 

The focus is all wrong, it is centered on sponsorship and architecture/construction instead of on students and education. You can't spell fUCked without UC."

"An example of how underfunded programs are can be found in CECH, with the education program and curriculum. Students going into education are expected to have 2-3 semesters of in-classroom student teaching. None of it is paid. One semester requires half-days in-classroom teaching every single weekday. No transportation is provided. No pay to student teachers. Not even school supplies. Student teachers are simply told their school to teach in and given their mentor teacher's information.

 

Trouble getting to teach? Can't afford gas or a bus pass? No assistance. You either do what is mandated in the program without support or your stay in the program is limited. Want to work another job to help cover costs of travel (sometimes 30 minutes or more each way, everyday)? Can't do that because you also have to take courses in addition to teaching. And combined with operating on the schedule of local districts, there is no time for a second job. But instead of providing support for programs in dire need of it, we need new stadium press boxes and shiny all-glass buildings."

"I absolutely love the hypocrisy of the administration sponsoring and promoting shit like therapy dogs in the library during finals week and signs with resoundingly hollow platitudes that are rarely more substantive than "you can do it!" while refusing to fund CAPS adequately. Fuck that "first three sessions free!" bullshit. Anyone who's been to therapy knows it takes about that long (if not longer) to really even get comfortable with your therapist and actually start to talk about the shit that matters. (And that's not even mentioning how much more expensive it is to see a psychiatrist.) And how about the fact that there's an additional fee if you miss an appointment?? With absolutely no way to get it waived?? It completely discourages students from actually getting the help they need and it effectively excludes students who can't afford the copay or don't have insurance. No amount of bullshit "mental health awareness" is gonna make up for that. Also, FUND THE MOTHERFUCKING HUMANITIES!! Fund research opportunities for non-STEM majors! Just because it doesn't necessarily have the same monetary return doesn't mean it's not important! And while we're at it, how the FUCK are you gonna operate an entire sustainability department while still putting millions of dollars in fossil fuels?!?!?! Universities have the potential to be pillars of progress, true centers of enlightenment and innovation for the better. Yet they continue, year after year, to just uphold the indefensible status quo, to make life better for no one but those in power, who just keep getting richer and richer at the expense of those very people and ideas universities purport to protect. Let students have an ACTUAL say in what goes on at their institution. Transparency should be of the utmost concern to you! You know there can only be shady shit going on when it's not."

"The history department lost its French historian a couple of years back and never gained a new one (budget cuts) so now they just do not teach French history (super important to understanding the damage of colonialism as well as world diplomacy). UC falsely advertises its educational opportunities to every single student."

"When I came back from study abroad I had some of the worst reverse culture shock. When I say that the therapist at UC student health center kept me in school and unharmed I mean it. I very well would have needed to take off the semester and repeat it or hurt myself if she had worked with me.

This was thankfully during a time where an anoynomous donor had given the clinic a $2million donation. I was able to see her for free six times and see her as needed with a copay the rest of the time. Things changed when that donation ran out. Apparently, the way things went before this donation was that there was one free consultation, and only 5 sessions allowed with a therapist per semester with a copay. My therapist mostly worked with sexual assault victims and decided that it was unethical to take on clients she was essentially unable to help. She felt obligated to leave and did.

Thankfully I was more stable by this point, but as I looked out at the construction on the sports facilities, and had looked at the investment portfolios through a club I was apart of (Fossil Free UC) I was furious. How can the university not take the health of its students seriously? If proper mental health care for the entire student body costs only $1 millon a year how can we not fund that? University life is mentally strenuous and the university must care about the success of its students. Why does it seem like the average student is less important than our investors or non-academic facilities?"

"I’m so disappointed in the way UC spends and distributes money. I find something new to complain about once a week. Lack of funding for student safety such as sufficient NightRide vans and workers, no longer having free prints like I did freshmen year when I barely have spare money to spend on printing now, etc. I am lucky I’m a senior. My friends who are also upcoming graduates and I always say how lucky we are to be graduating and getting out now before UC really goes downhill thanks to the administration."

"The hike in tuition costs and advancement into grad school caused me to take out more loans. Now sitting pretty at 40k debt :)."

"At the start of the 2017 Fall Semester UC told its students that it was canceling the contract with Cincinnati Metro to provide heavily discounted unlimited bus passes for students and faculty ($53 per semester versus $280 for 4 regular price monthly passes). Instead it continued offering a version where students swipe a plastic card and then pay a dollar cash (cannot use phone app payment with this method). This represented an increase in student and faculty costs to ride the bus during the semester, especially for daily riders.

 

UC stated that it made this decision in order to beef up its shuttle system and due to student wants and priorities. The problem is that both of these assertions were false. At the same time they did this they actually cut shuttle hours AND we could not find any evidence that any student body, organization, government, etc. was asked what they wanted. At the time I was a grad student at DAAP and a member of the Cincinnati Better Bus Coalition. We felt that this was suspicious and did a public records request on everything related to discussions and decisions made around the UC Metro Bus Pass program.

 

After several months of stalling and asking us to clarify our requests multiple times they ended up sending us an unsearchable pdf data dump of dozens of emails from the months leading up to the decisions.

 

Turns out facilities blew their allotted transportation budget to get the bigger, fancier charter buses for the UC Blue Ash Shuttle route and on somewhat expanding the Nightride program. In order to balance their budget they eliminated the Metro Bus Pass, which they subsidized at about $100k per semester (about $2.50 per student per semester) and cut back some operating hours on the shuttle routes. It also turned out that Metro had tried repeatedly to keep the program running by offering different terms on the contract and warning UC that students who stop taking the bus to campus will instead walk long distances or choose to drive and park on or around campus, which is already expensive and cramped.

 

To recap, admin's stated reasons for cutting the program which were publicly reported on in the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati Business Courier were false; UC students and faculty lost a valuable benefit on a campus surrounded by bus routes that go everywhere in the city; and no one ever faced any consequences for straight up lying to the student body and the media. You can find a great write up my classmate at the time did here:

 

https://betterbuscoalition.org/blog/2018/01/29/university-of-cincinnati-students-lose-their-bus-pass-with-bus-riders-left-out-of-the-conversation 

 

The story goes even further than that, and although I'm not a student anymore it still sucks that such a cheap benefit was eliminated for no good reason."

"They literally only care about STEM kids and athletes. STEM kids get to have bougie lives at their co-ops and athletes get their own dining halls but I can’t go one semester as an A&S kid without at least two of my classes I’ve enrolled in for the next semester getting cancelled. I had one scheduling period when THREE of my future classes got cancelled.

 

How am I supposed to finish my degree if half my classes get cancelled every semester? Education needs to come first. Every major deserves a chance at success."

"My family is in poverty, this is fucked up. We literally don’t have money. This is not okay."

"Where to begin; the university has constantly failed students and has cemented its need to extort the most money from us as possible and that's perfectly exemplified by when they tried to impose the 1% tuition hike, President Pinto saying himself no single person would benefit from it, yet when students became vocal and said no they turned around and in a closed door meeting approved the 6% tuition hike where President Pinto gets a salary increase AND a bonus.

 

Why in the hell is anyone making a sum of money grossly above the standard of living continuously giving themselves more money while the university is falling apart? "Next lives here" is less of a campaign and more of a slogan for the university I can only assume is a PR attempt to rid the sarcastic "we engineer better" when the university does something absolutely ridiculous like allowing a college to fall millions in debt.

 

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't the point of an academic institution to promote education? How can you claim to promote education while not giving any monetary support because they didn't meet your standards while simultaneously throwing millions into the dumpster fire that is UC Athletics burning money year after year. I'm just hoping I can get my degree before the ship finally sinks and the whole university goes under as a result of the greed and mismanaged funds of the university's elite."

"My practicum advisor was taken off of salary and cannot work overtime (UC has said they will not pay her). It's severely affected the student's projects and work often cannot be done without her. Us grads often have to cancel lab because of it, significantly dropping the amount of learning time and overall productivity. CCM also has a lack of GA's available, but still forces grads WITHOUT GA's to work insane hours without any pay. Wtf CCM?"

"They literally only care about STEM kids and athletes. STEM kids get to have bougie lives at their co-ops and athletes get their own dining halls but I can’t go one semester as an A&S kid without at least two of my classes I’ve enrolled in for the next semester getting cancelled. I had one scheduling period when THREE of my future classes got cancelled.

 

How am I supposed to finish my degree if half my classes get cancelled every semester? Education needs to come first. Every major deserves a chance at success."

"Thousands and thousands of dollars in debt to go to school at UC and my program had out of date and old equipment with no hope to get replacements soon, leaving me behind in my industry after graduation."

"I transferred to UC for my final "year" of college. I did so because I could afford the one and a half semesters my advisor told me that I needed to complete my degree. They said that I had more than enough courses to count toward my major, and that my final semester would even be part time. Now, a year and a half and three advisors later, I am told by the head of my department one month before graduating that my graduation must be pushed back another semester. Again. Why? My old advisor told me some of my credits counted toward my degree, but they didn't. Also, that I was taking two courses that I didn't need to take, because they should have been counted by my first, original advisor. A&S students suffer DIRECTLY from budget cuts. These offices are inadequately managed and badly staffed, to the point where they are ineffective and fraudulent. This is the fault of a "school" that is a facade for a multi-million dollar corporate run scam. I just want out. LET ME LEAVE!"

"Despite opportunities to go to college for almost free, I chose to pay to come to UC. I thought it would provide the best opportunities for me, but I see now that I was wrong. It’s clear the administration cares more about athletes than other students. Seriously? $30 million spent on athletics when departments can’t get funding for tape and paper, let alone allowing students free prints. Dorms are in shambles, the dining halls are not only unappetizing but unsafe, classes are constantly canceled after students enroll, our mental health resources are nil and Prez Pinto / the Board want to give themselves raises? Also, great job maintaining that tuition freeze you were so proud of. Stop spending our hard-earned dollars on frivolities and do your job: putting your students first."

"I have a doctorate from one of the top fifty universities in the world. As adjunct faculty at UC, I make less than a Wal-Mart greeter. My office is a 6’x6’ cubicle. I have no benefits at all."

"I have a Ph.D. in my field and regularly get high student evaluations. As an adjunct faculty member I am paid per credit hour, and when you divide the time I am expected to put in by my pay I earn $12.39 per hour. When you look at the actual time I do spend teaching, grading, and preparing materials, I am earning below minimum wage. It would be nice if UC paid its faculty a living wage rather than building stadiums. This is especially true for adjuncts who have not received a raise in 16 years despite the fact that the contract says adjunct salaries should be increased every time full-time faculty salaries increase. Instead UC has cutback on full-time positions and hired underpaid part-time faculty to cut costs. See this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer for more information."

"I work for the college of Arts & Sciences and we are not allowed to buy scotch tape with university money because we are not given money. I had to buy my own scotch tape to bring to work to finish my projects for the University."

"I wouldn't say I've been fucked over but the fact students have to pay to receive a parking pass on campus is unbelievable. We should be able to park on our own fucking campus. There is plenty of spaces in every garage."

"During my first year at UC I wasn’t very aware of the university spending until late in the second semester. After finding out about how corrupt this university is I reflected on many things.

 

My first issue was the dining halls (that I was required to spend thousands on as a student living on campus), if I wanted to eat food I could only eat between certain hours which didn’t quite fit in with my school/work schedule unless I went to center court which is a dark nasty hellscape offering extremely limited items to those with dietary restrictions. Most days I ate french fries because that’s all I was even able to eat. The “cafes” around campus like the daap cafe also offers extremely limited meat free options let alone vegan options. A lot of these pre-packaged “meals” aren't fresh either, so I just opted for two bags of chips instead. I watched my health decrease immensely after living in dorms and eating dining hall food. I’ve been to other public college campuses and I see dining halls open 24 hours, offering fresh cooked food, for a tuition of the same price. Why doesn’t UC have these options for students? It’s simply because they don't care.

 

My other big issue is their lack of care towards the colleges. As a student at daap, I witness how hard my professors work and would like to assume they are full-time because of how much they are at the school and how much they do for the school. However, most of them are just assistants, getting paid little money. It’s fucking unreal. At daap we are also required to go on co-ops. Our co-op advisors help us with the job search process as much as they can but once we get a job there is no help available through the school to find housing (all I know of is student run facebook pages and the tribunals suggested neighborhood page). We are left to find housing in cities we know nothing about all by ourselves which is extremely stressful and has taken a toll on my school performance. Maybe if the university cared about the students, many of whom are required to go on co-ops, there would be a better system in place. Do better UC."

"UC doesn’t care about its students, faculty, or staff. Staff members are being paid 30,000 and expected to put in so much time and effort into their work but are utilizing the bearcat pantry. Student Affairs isn’t even on the org chart and for a University (where they are supposedly student facing) it shows that they do not care about students or anyone who does work with/for/advocates on behalf of students. They decided to keep and honor racists, rapists, and sexual harassers rather than building a healthy environment for everyone. It was such a discouraging place to work that, I had to go work elsewhere. No one asked me why I left, because HR doesn’t do exit surveys. UC DOES NOT CARE."

"I would like to say to the these directors and chair members that they have robbed me of my ability to afford basic life necessities, all to line their pockets with 6-figure salaries. I work 40+ hours a week while taking a full-time course-load. I don’t qualify for any scholarships or financial aid. No wonder these hacks donate money to Republicans. Absolutely disgusting. I’m leaving this corrupt institution as soon as I can."

"When I asked why my department did not have any grad offices/lounges/available printers or supplies like other departments, even a place to keep my coat while teaching and in class, I was told there used to be one but the dean incorporated that room into his offices the year before I started grad school."

"Housing is outrageous in pricing (especially for the quality), UC is horrible with practicing diversity (although they preach that they are very experienced and well-versed in it) to the point of treating minority students poorly, CAPS is extremely understaffed (it can take a month or more for a normal intake), and graduate students are massively underpaid. All of these things could be fixed with better investment practices towards students."

"1200 dollars in tuition lost annually to the athletics department? Awesome. Thanks for having the sky divers and fireworks at football games that I don't go to."

"I am really disappointed that the University mandates that freshmen living on campus must purchase the unlimited meal plan. These plans are very expensive and my student does not get his money's worth. In a time when student debt is at an all-time high and young people are struggling to make college affordable- I think this is a very UNFAIR practice. I also feel like this is a practice that parents and students cannot do anything about. Why aren't students allowed to choose what they can afford and what they think they will use? How can we change this really EXPENSIVE and UNFAIR mandate?"

"Since I started working at UC a few years ago I've obtained another degree, but I've only obtained 2 cost of living increases, still sitting under the FLSA barrier line. I've applied for over a dozen internal positions only to be rejected due to a known error in Success Factors not being addressed, where a cover letter for one job is attached to all future applications, even if you reattach a new one, so the cover letter is for the wrong job posting. I currently owe 65k in total student loans and make less than 4ok annually, and recently discovered that I am the lowest paid person in my position across the entire campus. As a person who uses an obvious disability device, it's hard not to see a relationship there, even though it's tough to prove. There's no budget for me to attend a conference or do much else for professional development. I am now in my 40s on an antidepressant for the first time in my life. The only "Next" that 'Lives Here' is that I'm probably only one event away from an irrecoverable economical catastrophe."

"The library constantly hires consultants, most recently, a “design thinking” consultant for a one off payment of $40,000."

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