Dear Goucher: With Love, A Concerned Senior
I’m sure you’ve heard the gossip – Whole academic departments cut! Study Abroad requirement cancelled! Financial Aid eliminated! Mascot changing to Gazelle! Well, not the last one, but over the course of this semester, I’ve come across a variety of rumors, articles and forums – ranging from hints to blatant statements – that Goucher is on the road towards change, and a murky unknown one at best. Over the course of a year, several head administrators resigned, retired or left, tuition increased, and the college was hit with not only financial difficulties, but also a slew of vandalism and natural disasters.
This is not meant to be a bashing of Goucher, a rant against authorities, or a call for complete anarchy and chaos. Rather, I want to voice a few questions stemming from a conversation I had with one of my professors at the beginning of the semester: “There’s just this huge disconnect between the students and the institution that is Goucher!” I vented. And my professor, with an ironic smile, replied, “Well, isn’t the institution supposed to be the students?”
What are Goucher College’s priorities?
To make it out of the fiscal year in the black or to enable students to “Live Green, Go Global, Get Smart, Think More?” Is it possible to maintain and uphold community and academic values while collecting about $1 million for the budget by cutting part-time faculty members and decreasing funding for study abroad, all in the name of “strategic prioritization of services?”
Students do not matriculate to Goucher for its technological trinkets, mowed grass, or well-designed chairs. They come and then, for the most part, remain here because of a variety of factors, which I am willing to bet do not include thousand-dollar multidimensional televisions nor decreases in aid for studying domestically or abroad. What does it say for us as human beings when we value the acquisition of technological products over the livelihoods of faculty and staff? As my high school AP English teacher would ask, “Is this a mall or a school?”
If you take away what students really hold near and dear – the academic and financial opportunities to study both here and abroad, the ability to organize political and environmental groups on campus to effect change, the very professors that teach and expand our minds – what are we left with? What legacy does Goucher leave behind?
At this moment, there is a remarkable, visible difference between what many students view as important and what the administrators view as important. Why, then, are these discrepancies so marked? Why are the majority of students so removed from the happenings of these financial decisions? What can we do in order to create more transparency, more cooperation, and less rumors of “the administration is cutting everything!”
One way to start is to increase the accessibility of the Board of Trustees to the students and vice versa. How? Simple – technology. Blogs, emails, wikis, and more could be used to enhance communication between the Board and the rest of campus. At the same time, students must also come forward with initiatives and commitment, not boredom and apathy. This is a two-way street – students must be proactive in order to create these relationships. Rather than sit complacently by the wayside as these monumental decisions are being made around us, we as students should do something – get off Netflix, write some emails, go to some meetings. Maybe even call a board member or two. Not complain for hours about the latest movie or TV show.
I love Goucher – it is my home, it is a place where I have learned and explored beyond what I ever thought imaginable or possible. It is, to quote a Goucher grad, “a small school with a big heart.” But sometimes I worry that maybe, just a little bit, this heart is slowly being chipped away at or is not being cared for enough. Goucher encourages us all to “transcend boundaries” across the country and around the world; the very least we can do is return the favor and let Goucher – the administrators, the faculty, the staff, and the students – know that we do, in fact, care.