Monday, July 18, 2005

Fall tuition hike to top 9 percent - 18 July 2005


Beginning in the fall, tuition for undergraduate resident of Oklahoma will increase 9 percent.

The increase for non-residents will be 9.4 percent for undergraduates and 9.6 percent for graduate students.

NSU officials attribute the need for increase to mandatory fee increases that the university is responsible for paying, such as health insurance, liability insurance and utilities.

However, there are plans in place to ensure that students do not bear the full brunt of the budget appropriations.

“The University is working to maintain costs and keep them as low as possible, unfortunately the cost of many services and supplies external to NSU continue to rise,” said Vice President for Administration Kim Cherry. “We try to find ways to absorb these costs and not pass them on to the students.”

Ginger McClendon, a Tahlequah freshman, was unaware of the increase until last week.

“That’s just more money they are going to take from you. I don’t understand. Why are they not fixing all these old buildings on campus?” asked McClendon.

The increases were approved July 1 by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Neal Weaver, vice president of university relations, said the overall budget used by NSU is less than in 2002.

“That hole in our budget is what we’re dealing with,” said Weaver. “We do our best to keep tuition increases to a minimum, but we have an obligation to high quality and to serve as many students who want to come [to NSU].”

Tulsa sophomore J.P. Baker is critical of the tuition increase.

“It’s just another way for them to take our money and we’ll never see it again,” said Baker. “They are using it for other things besides maintaining the morale of the student body. I think they are using it for political reasons.”

Officials blame the need for higher student-paid revenue to lower state-paid appropriations.

The state has given NSU a total of about $1.6 million dollars less than the fiscal year four years ago. With the lower state funding, NSU must look to other avenues for revenue, including private funding.

The NSU Foundation currently has a $10.8 million pool to draw from.

“Private funding, grants and contracts are becoming more valuable,” said Weaver.

NSU is also increasing benefits to students in light of the necessary tuition increases. The Regents Tuition Waiver fund will be increased by 19 percent this year and the student employee wages will rise from $5.15 to $5.60 per hour.

For a student enrolled in 15 credit hours, the 9 percent tuition increase will translate to about $135 more dollars per semester.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Catron case ends in mistrial again - 11 July 2005


The second trial in a first-degree manslaughter case against Trisha Denae Catron ended in a mistrial last month.

Catron was charged with the crime in July 2003 after a collision occurred on State Highway 51, east of Tahlequah. Catron’s vehicle collided with a vehicle driven by NSU senior Andrea Beth Doyle. Doyle later died from injuries suffered during the accident.

Prosecutors allege Catron was intoxicated while driving. The first trial ended in a mistrial after Doyle’s father spoke about evidence to an attorney outside the courtroom in a place where jurors could have overheard the conversation.

The second mistrial was declared by the judge after Catron’s lawyer asked for a dismissal. The lawyer, Stephen Fabian, asked for a dismissal because the state prosecutor failed to include audiotaped interviews of people who attended a party with Catron before the accident.

Fabian said the tapes were listed as evidence in the summary provided by the district attorney’s office, but were not part of the evidence available during the trial.

“I wondered, I asked and when I found out – it disturbed me terribly,” said Fabian.

Janet Bickle, assistant district attorney and prosecutor for the trial, said the tapes were something that “everybody was unaware of.”

“It was simply an oversight,” said Bickle.

Fabian disagrees, however, and claims the existence of the tapes was known and it was the state’s responsibility to provide them.

“Oversight? They send me summaries of the statements,” said Fabian. “The officer that made them said he told the DA there were tapes. The DA knew there were tapes. I think he testified there were tapes. He knew it – so is that an oversight?

“Under the law [the state] has to give everything up – all statements, all recordings. We filed motions months and months ago, and they just didn’t happen to make it into the file.”

Bickle anticipates a third trial to begin in September. Unsuccessful attempts were made to reach Catron’s mother by e-mail for a statement regarding her daughter’s trial.

Catron has been in the Cherokee County Jail since last November for an unrelated DUI misdemeanor. She was arrested for drunken driving while out on bond for the manslaughter case. Fabian said the officer who pulled her over had no probable cause to do so.

“The officer didn’t have probable cause to believe she was driving under the influence. His testimony, in my belief, indicated that what he saw was not justification to arrest her for driving under the influence,” said Fabian.

With the highly-publicized DUI possibly affecting the bias of jurors picked from Cherokee County, Fabian realizes he may be up for a challenge. He is also confident that the facts will prove worthy for his side, and his client will be acquitted.

“I guess I will let the evidence show what it shows and show what they did and how the did it – just the same as I did before,” said Fabian. “The government has to prove their case; it is the way the system works.

“But the media has been trying this girl in the paper. Sometimes it is hard to get a fair trial but we just have to deal with that the way we can.”

Fabian also said he has never been asked to comment for a news story in any newspaper regarding the Catron case.