By: STEPHEN SALISBURY
One of the traps that we often fall into as students is this mentality that the university is out to get us somehow or that our professors find some kind of joy out of seeing us fail. I have spent the past four and a half years on this campus building relationships with so many of our professors and members of the administration, and I can tell you, unequivocally, that neither of those theories is accurate.
I had the opportunity this past Friday to speak to the Academic Senate and hear from them about a number of initiatives that are being carried out that run completely counter to those arguments.
The past couple of weeks, in our Student Government Association (SGA) meetings, certain concerns have been raised in such a way as if to say that the administration is somehow conspiring against us. “They’re all of a sudden charging us these new fees,” or “They don’t want to give us the proper space to have our event.”
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you can see how easy it is to digress into the mindset of us versus them.
I have chosen to combat this mentality by emphasizing collaboration and dialog. Since I assumed the presidency back in May, I have been meeting with as many different stakeholders in our university as possible.
I had the opportunity to sit down with each of our deans. Every one of them have said how passionate their school is about finding ways to help our students get the training and knowledge they need to succeed in the job market. Two Fridays ago, our entire SGA had the chance to have breakfast with the Chancellor and his cabinet, and they all listened very intently to what some of our concerns for students were. Many have already begun to reach out to us to set up meetings to work on solving some of the issues we raised.
I meet with the Chancellor one-on-one every month and I take every opportunity to sit with program and operations directors to convey issues that students have raised and listen to them talk about how they are trying to respond given the many economical and logistical challenges they face.
It’s easy, given the current political climate, to think that our leaders are not interested in addressing the challenges we have as students, or that all they care about is money, or that we have no power to effect change. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
What often prevents change from happening—and here is where I bring us back to my original point—is the mindset that we know better and we need to make “them” listen to “us” and “they” need to do things just the way “we” think they should be done.
I’ve heard it said that nature has given us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Possibly we should consider listening more and talking less when we think there is a problem and work to learn all of the ins and outs of a situation before we start complaining and going off the rails so to speak.
I’d like to give you a practical example of this approach in action. The past several years, the SGA has been responsible for producing the annual Boo-to-You Halloween event. This is a fun event with which we reach out to the community and our students and provide a safe and secure space for kids to come and get some candy, participate in fun activities, face their fears in our haunted house space, and maybe just see how cool being on a college campus can be. Every year, however, we face the challenge of getting people to help us make it happen and finding a space in which to make it happen.
Last year the university graciously allowed us to use the entire Riverside Hall Building. We also had two or three individuals that spent the better part of two weeks creating and building the haunted house and activity spaces. This year, those people are gone and we are severely limited on the space we have available on campus because of construction, renovation and natural disasters.
Rather than lament and wallow in our misfortune, what we have chosen to do this year is scale back on the size of the event, but increase the overall engagement by reaching out to clubs and organizations, offering them a chance to participate in creating children’s activities or haunted house scenes, and tie the event into a much larger Spirit Week for our students.
If you’d like to be a part of this fun and exciting project, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get to work on solving a problem as opposed to complaining about one.