To Whomever has a Hand in These Decisions;
During Spring Break 2020 you were forced to make a tough decision. We all had to make tough decisions. Your students went home confused and frustrated. We had no idea what the next six months would bring, but we knew they would be full of tough decisions. Now, six months later, I’m left to wonder: why weren’t we consulted about our own future?
Over the last six (ish) months we have received a plethora of emails about our future as students, but we have yet to see the most important question: what do you want? There would be about 500 answers had you asked, but many would be the same. We want control of our futures.
As students, we fund your schools. We put food in the dining hall, games in the CIC and desks in your classrooms. We pay our professors to teach and create buildings for those who come after us. When we graduate, we celebrate our successes by giving back to you, the ones who taught us. We are the reason your doors open and your classrooms fill. We are the reason you exist.
But that has meant little to you. I asked Dr. Beach why students were not consulted about the decision to move online after Thanksgiving, and the response I got was bewildering: we had been asked. A focus group of students, along with student senate were chosen to speak for the student body, while the student body had no idea. Herein lies the problem: Student Senate is not an accurate representation of the will of the student body. they are made up of a small percentage of the student body. They do not ask the student body their opinions. They are a small governing body making decisions with the best intentions, but they are not a representative democracy. Therefore, they do not accurately represent the will of the majority. In the past Student Senate has not been tasked with making decisions as monumental as weighing in on the education of the entire student body. They are tasked with allocating funds and making campus better for students. By asking the Student Senate to speak for the student body, you caused an overreach in power and a misrepresentation of our beliefs.
You could have sent out an email. You did it all through the pandemic. You sent surveys asking where we were during Spring Break. A similar avenue could have been taken to most accurately gauge how your students wished to be educated. After all, retention is more important now than ever before. But you did not. You made decisions without consulting the people it most greatly affects. If this was unintentional, I am worried for your ignorance. If this was done purposefully, I am infuriated at the disrespect.
We sat idly Spring of 2020. We moved to “distance learning”, and had we received surveys at the end of our courses, you would’ve known how greatly our education was impacted by this transition. But once again, you did not ask. Instead we bit our tongues and understood the difficulties we all were facing. When the semester ended, we waited for information, for questions, for anything that would tell us what to expect next semester. For weeks we waited to be asked how we wished to advance, how we wanted to live during the three months we’d all be back together. We were never asked. Instead, we were given a plan, laid out before us with no prior consultation.
Our General Education requirements include courses meant to teach us how to learn and be independent. In Thinking Critically we learned how to ask questions, open our minds, form educated opinions and think for ourselves. In Concepts of Wellness we were taught that every part of our lives is important, and having a single spoke of the wheel out of place cause chaos everywhere else. You taught us how to make the best decisions for ourselves, and when it came time to decide our futures, we were bound and gagged. Silenced before we could open our mouths. And you continue to do so.
The year has begun, and still we have no voice. The world is not the same as it was a year ago, but you treat your students the same. We are not in control of our futures. We walk around campus your way. Live in our rooms your way. Eat our food your way without questioning it because we feel we cannot. Those who graduated last year are still without power. Twice you have taken away their closure. Now you’ve put them into next year’s graduating class. Do you think the pandemic will disappear by then? That having twice as many people on campus for graduation in May is safer than half as many in October? How are you going to ask your new alumni for donations in the coming years when their proudest moment was snatched away without deliberation twice?
Students’ future generosity will depend on the experiences they had during their time on campus. Our positive experiences with peers and professors does not overwhelm our anger and powerlessness. The voices of the majority are being drowned. We are the ones living on campus; we are the ones in danger. We are the exposers and the exposed. We are the reasons for the rules. It is us that have to quarantine, us that have to learn. Our masks may cover our faces and muffle our words, but 500 angry voices are enough for even the deafest of ears to hear. Our lives depend on our education. Why don’t we have a say in it?