Categorized | Viewpoints

COW issues are national issues

Over my four years at Wooster, its flaws have become all the more apparent. Yes, our administration can fail to be transparent, our faculty are underpaid, our staff are underpaid, we have too many Deans, not enough counselors, the food could be better, Res Life could operate more smoothly, tuition is too high, we graduate with too much debt, minority and international students face obstacles, sexual assault remains a prominent issue on campus and there are departments that are nearly or entirely devoid of faculty of color.

When discussing these issues, students and other members of the campus community oftentimes frame them as a referendum on the administration’s receptiveness to the student body and its presence, or lack thereof, of moral fiber.

I argue that this is a damaging way of discussing the College’s most pressing issues. Wooster’s problems aren’t unique, and to consider them as such both ignores the critical issues our colleges are facing nationwide and inaccurately portrays our own institution as a money-grabbing diploma factory.

For example, one can consider the presence of minority and international students at Wooster. Twenty nine percent of Wooster students are either domestic students of color or international students. While work still needs to be done to ensure that these students are truly included and equal in all facets of the campus community, that there is equity in opportunity rather than just representation on-paper, this number does serve to illustrate how Wooster compares to its peer institutions.

Kenyon College has 26 percent of students who fall into the categories of minority and international, Denison University has 32 percent in their incoming class and Oberlin College reports that they have 20 percent students who are from “underrepresented” groups. DePauw University also reports that 29 percent of their students are minority or international and Allegheny College reports that 22 percent of students are of similar background. This sampling of peer institutions shows that Wooster is better than or similar to most of its peer institutions when it comes to recruiting diverse incoming classes. While the College should not be content until its population is more representative, this is a national issue, one that plagues the majority of campuses.

Another example of Wooster’s issues being illustrative of national issues is the increase in tuition. As I referenced in my article published in the Voice on April 21, tuition at the College has increased proportionally to tuition raises at colleges nationally. The reasons might not be the same everywhere, but the issue is largely consistent. Any debate about the legitimacy of tuition raises at the College must address how the reasons for the raises here are usual or exceptional. This debate is convoluted and complicated, and requires more transparency on the part of the College to better disseminate its rationale for these yearly increases. Without this transparency, the announcement of tuition increases will continue to spur gut-reactions that question the intentions of the administration.

In conclusion, it is apparent that Wooster’s issues are commonplace in and systemic to universities and colleges nationwide, not unique or insular to our campus itself. As the student body continues to work to improve the status quo at the College in the coming years, it’s important to make sure we do so in context. By doing so, student grievances will be more robust and more likely to produce substantive change.

Jared Berg, an Editor in Chief for the Voice, can be reached for comment at JBerg17@wooster.edu

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