December Editorial: Students are Individuals, Not Just Another Number

Byline: by Caileigh Oliver

Posted: December 10, 2012

This past semester has been an emotional, and sometimes even a charged experience. The issue of making drastic changes to the college in order for it to survive is a difficult one, especially when it involves the issue of admitting men as residential students. The community has been split in their opinions on the issue, some for admitting men and others against. Some say they just want the college to stay open, and other students have protested because they believe their voices have not been heard.

The issue of the student voice is an important one, and the appearance of it not being heard is currently a major issue on campus. There is the obvious example: students have little representation on decision making bodies. Only one student was a member on the Commission on Shaping the Future of Wilson College, and she was unable to attend all meetings because she had to attend classes (after all, that is the reason she came here). Students have voiced their concerns at meetings, and provided feedback with the hope it will be considered, but the results never seem to reflect what students have said.

When it comes down to it, it isn’t just the lack of student voice that is the issue – it is the lack of recognition of students as individual beings. Over the past several months, students have been reduced to mere numbers in the work of the Commission and the Board of Trustees. There has been no recognition of the wants and needs of us as individuals – instead, we are parts of a lump sum. So many students cite the individual attention they receive from professors as being one of the reasons they chose to come to Wilson – they feel they are no longer "just a number" when they are here. To be treated as a number, another nameless face among a sea of many, is upsetting and difficult for many to accept.

It isn’t upsetting just because students are suddenly being treated as just a number – it’s upsetting because so much of the Wilson experience cannot be summed up in facts and figures, and it feels like that is being overlooked. So many incalculable things gained here at Wilson that have emotional value - traditions, friendships, self confidence - yet are not acknowledged by those who are making the decisions.

I recently had an experience of this lack of recognition of the emotional aspect of Wilson during a conversation with a member of the Board of Trustees regarding the sport of gymnastics. After finding out that I was a gymnast, this person spent several minutes talking with me about how great of a sport it is – all without mentioning the recent decision they voted on to eliminate it as a sport on campus. Even just a single mention of the Wilson gymnastics team would have been appreciated. By not remarking on it, they dismissed the experiences of the entire team here at Wilson, and all of the emotional value it had for those gymnasts who had hopes of competing for the college.

It is through actions like this – or rather, inactions – that students are led to believe that their voice, their thoughts, their feelings have no importance to those making decisions. When the decisions being made revolve around an institution that has been built on the personal touches, the emotional connections – the things that are impossible to define as mere facts and figures – it is hoped that such things will be included in the process of making these decisions. With the decision to postpone the vote, there is still hope that these priceless aspects of Wilson will be taken into consideration before a final decision is reached.

Last Updated: February 24, 2013

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