From the Chief’s Desk: Urging Students to be More Engaged

I often hear from students that the administration doesn’t value student opinion when making decisions for the College. While student outreach might not always be consistent, it seems the Presidential Search Committee has tried to give a fair amount of student access to the presidential candidates brought to campus. It seems only a few took the opportunity to get involved.

Over the past three weeks, I have attended at least one of the public forums for each candidate. I never saw more than 20 students at the forums and in many cases, it was less than ten. It was also clear that at each forum, it was the same people who were showing up over and over again—the student trustee, the student trustee in training, members of the SGA executive board and the Point News staff.

Even if the forums weren’t at convenient times for everyone to attend, the Search Committee included resumes, articles, interviews and speeches on The Portal. One can see how many times each of these documents have been downloaded. When you look at the numbers, its not hard to see that less than 10 percent of students took the opportunity to look at the candidates and what they might bring to the College. I know a petition against Bacchus went around, but how many students could have an informed opinion of candidates if only a very small percentage attended their forums or downloaded materials about them?

Considering the impact the next president has on the quality of life at St. Mary’s, students should care about the candidates brought to campus.How much money the next president can raise, for example, will influence your tuition rates, College services and the quality of academics.

In contrast, when the Protest policies appeared in the handbook last year, students were up in arms about losing their right to protest on campus and were successful in having the policy dismissed by the administration. Although students were willing to fight for their the right to freely express their opinion, it doesn’t seem like they exercise it when it really counts.

At this point, the decision is made and the community will have to adjust to whoever the next president will be. While we might think that our impact on this College is limited to the four years we are here, our action or inaction will leave an imprint on the College beyond graduation. I hope the next time the opportunity presents itself, more students will choose to be engaged.

From the Patio to the First-Years

First weekend on campus, we were caught off guard when every upperclassman snickered as we walked into brunch freshly showered, dressed in something other than sweatpants, hair blown dry and make up on our faces. We thought, “What’s the big deal?” (If you find yourself thinking the same thing, first-years, give it a week and you’ll get it.) Later, we heard seniors complaining that the demographics of the College were changing. They saw us as more preppy, less environmentally aware, terrified of Frisbees and naive to the wonders of St. Mary’s.

Meanwhile, we scoffed at the lack of hygiene and ran over as many Frisbees with our cars as possible. (Hey, if you ever lived on PG’s first floor, you know how frustrating it is for your window to get hit 10 times a day). We quite literally turned our backs on bicycle/pedestrian etiquette on the path and religiously attended breakfast before our 8AMs.

But here we are sitting on the patio shoeless, in Seahawk sweatpants, tea in hand and huge sunglasses desperately trying to disguise ourselves. (Note: you’ll learn quickly that on a campus of 2,000 students, it takes a lot more than a pair of sunglasses to hide from the night before). We find ourselves thinking “Who are these kids that were born in the 90s?!” But before we make them subject of our snickering, it occurred to us: those before us were wrong—the Admissions office isn’t accepting different kinds of students over the years. Rather , the College culture is changing the students admitted.

Looking forward from our first few days on campus we never would have expected (one us us to be an) avid Frisbee golfer, so interested in being green and rely on our bikes to get everywhere from class to off-campus parties. Being here inspired us to drop our dry clean-only dresses for swimsuits and shorts and substitute Fiji bottles for Nalgenes. We partied hard with the kid from chem class just as much as the girls we shared a hall with and spent afternoons having coffee with professors. We went to soccer games, Last Lectures and the Vagina Monologues (even though the only vaginas we ever thought we’d see were our own). We even made sure to stop in at Get Your Float On because who the hell knows what that really means, but who cares — it was awesome.

Being at St. Mary’s forces all of us out of our comfort zone and onto a more exciting adventure. After all, this is COLLEGE. The campus culture compels you to friend everyone, try new things, put yourself out there and do somethin’ crazy! But don’t worry if things don’t fall into place right away. You’ll find your groove just as we did on the patio.

We hope that you’ll open up to whatever change the wind off the River blows your way and embrace it. We can only promise that after the four years there’s one thing that will never go away—how enthralled we all are at the beauty of this College as we view it from the patio.

From the Chief’s Desk

I joined the paper in Fall 2006 and found myself amongst ten or fifteen other first-years at the semester’s first staff meeting. I tried not to draw attention to myself as the editors assigned stories to everyone seated at the table in the Club Room. I was waiting for something exciting and interesting to jump out at me before I committed to writing my first article for a college newspaper. Nothing had caught my eye and the group was discussing the Opinions Section next.

Next thing I know, my friend Lisa is going on and on about how “dangerous” exiting Guam parking lot is for someone who is learning to drive. Yes, Lisa, for the 1 percent of students who still have their learner’s permit, perhaps it is “dangerous.” But this certainly wasn’t the article I was anticipating.

“Well, which one of you wants to write it?” asked the Editor-in-Chief.

“Mari, you should do it!” exclaimed Lisa. “I mean you don’t have a story yet…”

“Cool, Lis. Thanks,” I grudgingly responded. Needless to say, I didn’t talk to her for about three days. I could go on about how ridiculous this story assignment was, but enough said. I had to write about a stop sign in the freshman parking lot.

A week later, as I was driving out of Guam, I found myself face to face with a stop sign. All I could do was laugh uncontrollably until the car behind me started honking. Then it occurred to me that although I didn’t feel particularly strong about the problem, my short argument in the newspaper had actually made a difference.

Though I felt it was a dumb assignment at the time, it also taught me an important lesson about St. Mary’s: there really is no story too small. A students voice won’t go unheard. There will be discussion, and in many instances, there will be change.

I hope students take to heart how lucky we are that this community is inclusive. There are major decisions being made on campus this fall and we have the opportunity to voice how we feel about many of them. The Presidential Search Committee, the Capital Design Advisory Committee, the Working Group on Revenue Planning and Forecast and many other decision-making bodies invite students to engage in dialogue about the important issues facing our community. Rather than taking that for granted, get involved. If they are listening, then it’s our responsibility to speak up.