My first request for a donation from the Alumni Association arrived in my mailbox this week, so I guess I am officially leaving Wooster soon.
I will not be sending in $5, or any money, at least for a while. For one thing, I’m about to head into an hourly job and try to get myself an apartment, so I need to save every $5 I can get my hands on. For another, I’m not sure I’m convinced that Wooster has earned my money.
I want to be clear here: I have loved my time at Wooster, and the opportunities I was afforded here changed my life. I was able to do an unpaid internship I couldn’t afford on my own because of an APEX fellowship I received after freshman year. I was fortunate enough to end up in one of the best Political Science departments in the country, which was full of passionate professors doing important work. I participated in the moot court team, which made me into a better public speaker and a more confident person. I spent my Tuesday nights putting this newspaper together with some of the best people on campus. I got a job (!) in journalism that I’ll start a week after graduation. I met the guy I’m going to marry (if he doesn’t drive me insane first).
In spite of all these wonderful opportunities and experiences, though, I am leaving Wooster feeling frustrated. Maybe I should just feel grateful and shut up, but I tend to think that when you love a place, you point out its problems and try to make it better.
I won’t go into my specific struggles with the College’s administration. I also don’t want to paint all administrators with the same brush — many of our administrators are caring, supportive people who have gone out of their way to help me when I needed it.
But what every student who attends the College needs to realize is that we are stakeholders, and we deserve to know the details of how this school is run. As tuition-paying students, we (and our families) provide the vast majority of the College’s revenue. And yet, in my time here, it seems that students have been granted less and less power, given less and less of a voice in the management of our shared home.
Why, for instance, will tuition be going up 4.1 percent next year (an increase from last year’s tuition hike!), especially since we spent last year trimming the budget with the goal of keeping tuition increases minimal?
Why has it taken a full academic year to put together a draft of the new alcohol policy, and why are the student members of the Alcohol Task Force saying this draft looks nothing like the policy they put forward last semester?
Why have we seen such relentless turnover in the Office of Residence Life (in my four years here, three entirely new Res Life staffs have come through that office) and other administrative departments, and why is nothing being done about it?
These problems are not the main issue, however — my biggest concern is that students, whose tuition money allows the College to run, are being shut out of these discussions, or, in the case of the alcohol policy, invited in only for the sake of appearances.
I’m guessing some people will read this and respond with some variation of “if you don’t like it here, go to a different school.” But I do like it here — I just also recognize that there are major problems in the way our school is run. Trying to fix those problems does not mean I do not love Wooster, and I would argue it is actually a service to the College.
We should be demanding meaningful inclusion of students in the decision-making processes that go on here. We should be pushing back when we are told that we do not need to know information about the way our school, our home, is run.
Each of us has a responsibility to work to fix the problems we see during our time here. At the end of your four years, you might be tired, you might be frustrated, you might be angry; but you’ll know that you did your best to make this wonderful place even better, and that’s not so bad.
Maddi O’Neill, an Editor in Chief for the Voice, can be reached for comment at MOneill16@wooster.edu.