By: Kate Luce
At IU South Bend, there are many diverse, non-traditional students on campus. Student veterans are just a fraction of this population. With around 200 student veterans on campus, they are a group that shares a unique kinship with one another.
With the Student Veterans Organization and the veteran’s book club, there is an established community. However, according to some, how close these veterans are can ebb and flow for some factors.
However, for Dexter Shroyer, a Human Resources major and a student veteran, being part of the community is looking out for one another when you can. Whether it be giving other veterans advice on classes or letting someone borrow a book when they need it, it’s a part of this community that is needed. Because when students first arrive at IU South Bend, they can feel lost.
“That kind of connection and kinship, I think, is important. I said before, it’s like you go into the military, and you leave your family, and then you develop a family. Then you have to leave that. And sometimes you leave that to go to a new place where you don’t have your actual family and don’t have this family created, you kind of feel like a lost and isolated,” Shroyer said.
While all things considered, Shroyer said there are some discrepancies some professors might have with student veterans in particular.
“I would say the overall arching theme that most veterans have at this stage, feel sometimes like the professors treat them more younger, like they’re out of high school rather than what they are in their life. That isn’t the mentality when you’re in the military. Even if you just got out of high school, the thought is like, ‘Hey, you’re an adult, and there’s a job that needs to be done.’ You chose to do that job, so now, you need to be the person that we can rely on to be responsible,” Shroyer said.
In particular, when a professor calls a student veteran out in front of the class without giving the student a chance to speak for themselves, it can be upsetting or frustrating for students that have served in the military in particular. While this often isn’t the case, when it does happen, some students feel as though there isn’t much mutual respect.
While this has happened for some students, others have felt as though there has been a preconceived mindset placed on them. For Shroyer, some professors thought he would have a conservative mindset. This wasn’t the case.
“A lot of people that serve are not so stark, on one side or the other. And they’re very fluid in their viewpoints, especially with the experiences they had, those that have gone to war, or been somewhere that involves that kind of situation, even if they didn’t go out into the field and were active, but they were over there,” Shroyer said.
Another major discrepancy for student veterans is those who are Reservists members. While these students aren’t technically still in the military, they work weekends and can get called up to be deployed from anywhere between two weeks to six months.
Often where they are deployed, there isn’t the infrastructure where there is internet access. While there are professors who understand the situation, others don’t understand the situation and need the Veterans Affairs Office to intervene.
“99% of the time, once an outside party gets involved, and the professor then finds out that this is a legitimate issue and that they’re just not showing up to classes – which students have done, and they’ve made these wild excuses. – So I understand the professor, but then there’s always the one who just says simply, ‘they failed my class.’ Those are the few that we have the issue with explaining like, ‘Hey, listen, I don’t know what the legality is here, but I don’t think you can just fail the student. They have a legitimate reason,’” Shroyer said.
While that situation can happen, for the most part, students can take an Incomplete grade. To get a grade, students can make up the work they missed when they come back from deployment and don’t have to pay for the credit again. Often, this is the route that is taken.
Throughout the years, many changes have come to student veterans. The Veterans Affairs Office moved to a more visible space on campus. The Veterans Book Club has provided not only students, but community members and faculty to engage with each other. This year, IU South Bend became a Military Friendly School.
“I think that the whole veterans club, like the one we have, is pretty nice. I mean, I’m in the book club, too. I like that a lot. They have one of either the authors or one of the people that go in the book coming to the next meeting. There’s staff members that come that aren’t they aren’t even living in this area anymore that come just to say, ‘hey,’ or just to talk about the book and their thoughts on it, too. I thought that was pretty neat. We got another one coming up. I actually have to go pick up my book after this class,” Thomas Spiegel, student veteran, said.
However, there still can be improvements made, according to Shroyer. It all comes down to understanding student veterans and being aware of their presence and importance at IU South Bend.