Dear Goucher Students:
While scanning the recent headlines in this newspaper, we couldn’t help noticing that, regarding important campus issues, the most frequent subject is “administration.” As in: “Campus Vandalism leads to growing administration concerns,” or: “Facing tuition deficits, administration initiates cutbacks.”
We wondered: why aren’t there more events on the same subjects – campus vandalism and the school’s budget crisis, for instance – that would require The Q to have “student” as subject? In other words, is the administration really the only party “concerned”? And, do students know the tremendous power that they have to change things on campus, not only among students, but also with faculty and administration? And, lastly, do students know enough about the ways that that power can be used?
These last questions also arose based on conversations that we’ve had with students about creating change on campus. Students have asked questions like, “What is the faculty going to do about the budget cuts?” This is an interesting question considering some students frequently mention when it comes to other subjects (grades, course design) that “they pay our salaries,” but do not appear to embrace that same level of power when it comes to larger issues like budget cuts, vandalism, and bias incidents.
The history of students using their power to create change is long, and exists on every continent, in innumerable countries. Students have organized themselves and others to bring new rights or end old limitations, to educate or bring about new attitudes, and to form new alliances and communities. Students have used their physical presence via sit-ins, blockades, vigils and marches, performances, town-hall meetings and dialogues, and many other means. Students have also leveraged their information and social networks, bringing pressure or creating change by shedding light on events or attitudes inconsistent with a community’s values, or by articulating an unmet community need. Students can look at the uprisings in Northern Africa for recent examples, but there is a long history and tradition of student organizing in the United States, for example the student sit-ins throughout the country during the civil rights era.
This leads us back to the two articles mentioned above. Are students at Goucher considering the ways in which their bodies and voices could be used to break a stalemate on campus – the stalemate of a status quo, and one in which the “leadership” is too often created by those who are either paid to do so, or are otherwise officially “authorized” to represent the voices of students by the status quo.
Can students imagine a Q headline that read something like, “Students organize to…” or: “In Light of Recent Cutbacks, Students Create…” or “…Students Join with…to Create…” or: “In Response to Vandalism, Students…” If so, then what are the steps needed to create positive action. If not, then why not? These are important questions that all of us should be asking ourselves, not just faculty or administrators. What can I do to help ensure that Goucher College embodies and practices the campus values set forth in the mission of the college? As students, what is our role, if any, in ensuring that the integrity of the academic program is not negatively impacted by budget cuts?
As writers, students have asked us to speak on their behalf in the form of letters or editorials. We believe that students need to speak for themselves, making use of the tools and skills that they have at their disposal. More students could write for The Q, or start additional publications, or use their voices in other ways, by creating forums or public conversations. Faculty should support students with their goals, not displace them because students have an invaluable voice that deserves to be added to the ongoing conversation between staff, administrators and faculty.
The events on our campus affect all of us – students, perhaps, most of all because many of you actually live here. Since that is the case, why is vandalism such a problem on campus and what can students do to help prevent it happening on campus? Perhaps because many will only live here for just four years some feel that this community is “temporary” and thus, like a temporary driver’s license, somehow not yet “real” or an actual community. But it is as real as any community you will ever experience – because just like those communities, it will only be yours if you choose it and play a role in maintaining the cohesiveness and integrity of Goucher’s community.
Many Goucher students travel the world making a difference in communities that are geographically far from Towson. We find it interesting that with so many of our students willing to work on behalf of a variety of global communities, there appears to be apprehension about working on behalf of this community. Why is that?
We delight in and champion the power that you show in our classes, and hope that you will bring that same force to standing up to what is brewing around you. Take a look at what is happening. How might you make the campus inhospitable to what you do not like (i.e. vandalism), ensure that your needs and desires are considered in major initiatives (budget cuts; changes to academic program) and to ensure that Goucher is a place where we work together to make sure change, however difficult, makes sense for all involved.
If in fact we are a community with principles that privilege respect, inclusion, communication, responsibility, service and social justice, then we really need to think critically and thoughtfully about the current state of our community and the collective and individual role that we play in it.
Nsenga K. Burton
Chair, Communication and Media Studies
Chair, Peace Studies