Words have a life; without response they die.

I recently received a letter asking me several questions about my September 25 penlight column. Its not often we get letters here at the Torch; in fact, I was pretty amazed at the response I received from that column. Another letter I received is also in the editorial section this week.

This letter struck a chord in me, however. I remembered past to my senior year in high school, the anxiety and the excitement of applying to college, hoping to make the right choices. I wish someone had answered my questions back then too.

Dear Amanda,

I read your recent editorial with much interest. Last weekend my family and I went on a tour at St. John’s. My son Oliver is a senior at South River High School in Edgewater, MD.

It amazes me that people from all over the country actually ever even hear about St. John’s. I’m from Connecticut, not even three hours away, and no one from here ever came to my high school to talk to us, and no guidance counselor certainly offered any help. The only way I heard about the school was because members of my family came here. But, let’s continue.

Your article makes my husband and I think whether Oliver should even apply to St. John’s. I don’t think the attitude of the students and teachers you describe is as pervasive on every campus, but I do believe these people exist on all campuses.

Of course this attitude is everywhere. If St. John’s were the only place where people were more concerned with looks than education, then no one would ever come here. It would be marked as “the easy school for dumb people,” and no one wants to have a degree from a school like that.

That’s not the case at all. When I was applying here I was given the impression that it was a very competitive and very active campus where my mind would expand and I would grow as a person. That’s the same line that is given to you everywhere, at every campus, all over the world. People are only going to give you something when they think they can get something in return. St. John’s is no different.

I know there are worse colleges across the country, and I have been told many times that if I “hate it here so much” that I should just leave. The truth is, I don’t hate it here. I think St. John’s has a huge amount of potential, but if no one bothers to point it out, it will never be achieved.

Is there anything positive that you can tell me about St. John’s?

Wow. There’s a loaded question. I think I could write an entire book of positive points about St. John’s. For starters, there are an incredible amount of clubs and activities here that are just begging for people to join. The Torch is one of them.

College is only what you make of it. I know an endless number of students who sit at home, or in their dorms, or in Marillac or in the University Center all day and do absolutely nothing. The worst part is the fact that they complain that there is “nothing to do,” and that “this school sucks.”

Even when the administration makes an effort to help us, the attempt often crashes and burns. The new Hall Councils in the dorms are an example of that. I am a big advocate of change. So I joined, hoping to see some of my ideas come to life. However, the meetings are not well attended and completely unorganized. This is yet another opportunity for St. John’s students to help themselves, and they just give up.

And these are smart, young, enthusiastic people who have the power to change just about anything they want changed. But they do nothing all day. So my answer is, yes, there are a lot of positive points to St. John’s. And about 16,000 more just sitting around doing nothing all day.

How was your first year?

My first year was amazing. The newness, the mystery; everything about it was just unbelievable. For those of you in your first year now, do everything you want to do, eat up as much of it as you can. Be as involved as you can be, meet as many new people as possible. The fresh taste soon turns stale, and you’ll soon wish you had eaten more.

I must admit the senior who led the tour was very good. We did ask a question at the front desk of one of the dorms and the student who responded was not very articulate or friendly … frankly he could care less and showed it.

Unfortunately that is the attitude of the typical St. John’s student. But, in this case, it has led to another problem. Campus safety. As most of the problems at St. John’s are found everywhere, so is this. No campus, anywhere in the country, is truly safe.

The desk attendants are just part of a larger problem.

This is especially evident at St. John’s. The lack of safety was demonstrated the other day when I arrived back at campus late at night.

The front gate was closed, and there was no way for me to get in unless I walked all the way around campus, which would not be safe either. So I called over a public safety officer that was passing by. He opened the locked gate, without checking my ID or even so much as asking my name. I was allowed on campus, after hours, without ID and without being asked my intentions.

Many gates are left open and unguarded, and many public safety officers are not aware of campus security policies. The front desk attendants, students during the day and public safety desk attendants at night, allow students to pass by without showing IDs, and without signing in their friends.

I’ve always thought of public safety as more of a comfort to the parents than to the students. They drive around and look important for when the parents come and visit, but if you actually needed help, they’d probably just drive away.

Thanks for your time…. your editorial was well written.

Thank you. I hope that if Oliver makes the decision to come here that he enjoys it.


Val Fortune Kagan