In my final week as a columnist, I have spent much time (between papersand studying) reflecting on how both the University and I have grown since I firststarted this weekly rant just two years ago. I entered this regular discussion with a national political bent, having few harsh words for the University. I leave less interested in politics, more interested in philosophy and literature, and with a mixed bag of feelings about the institution I will graduate from in less than three weeks.
About a week ago, a senior by the name of Lisa Gotimer-Strolla, president of the Math Honor Society and head skull of the prestigious Skull and Circle Honor Society, reminded me of why I started to write this thing in the first place: to expose injustice and to spark social change within my immediate environment. She informed me of an early Fall 2006 meeting with a Student Life administrator at which she was told that “honorsocieties aren’t worth our money,” meaning Student Life’s. She explained thatthis administrator objected to the idea of “student money” contributing to honorsocieties which “don’t contribute to the school,” unless they execute events andservice programs.
“The fact that maybe we increase the academic prestige of this University, thatmaybe we can be known as a place where people go for more of a reason than ‘Wehave money,’ [should be reason enough],” Gotimer-Strolla explained.
The aforementioned administrator could not be reached for comment, perhapsa result of what Gotimer-Strolla calls an “extended three-day lunch break,” referring to her contention that Student Life is “unorganized” and simply uncooperative.
But I suppose that’s just conjecture. I suppose.
Long story short, the Skull and Circle Honor Society, an elite group of sixexceptional students, has recently cut ties with Student Life, as they now operateentirely out of St. John’s College. Good for them, I say.
In my three years working at The Torch, administrators and faculty haverepeatedly asked me a single question in several different ways: “How do we getstudents more involved?” Until recently, I haven’t had an answer. I saw theendemic of St. John’s student apathy as completely irresolvable.
But as I have become acquainted with the piles of paperwork student organizationsare forced to shuffle through on a monthly basis, as I have witnessed organizationalcongress meetings filled withmore hot air than substance, and as I havespoken with numerous heads of organizations, I realize that there is a nearlyuniversal sentiment among students involved: Student Life does more to deterstudents and to hinder what should be a fulfilling experience than they do to help.They are, unfortunately, a necessary evil for students seeking to get involved inextracurricular activities, or so it seems. Now this isn’t to say that all or evenmost of the individuals working in Student Life are poor workers. I don’tdoubt that some of them do a good, honest job with the aim of helping studentsadvance in their academic and social experience at St. John’s. Still, the bureaucraticnonsense of policies concerning monthly reports, organizational roundtables,leadership development programs, and organizational congresses do nothingbut bore, annoy, and waste time, a rare commodity for your average college student.
I don’t know what the intentions behind these programs are, but I do knowwhat students generally think of them. As Gotimer-Strolla says of organizationalcongress meetings, “You spend four-plus hours on something that is generallysummed up quite well in a booklet.”
The problems with Student Life are many. If you’ve paid any attention to TheTorch this semester, you know that the department has had trouble identifyingits place within the University mission statement, which labels the school as”Catholic, Vincentian, and metropolitan.” But despite this administrative shortcoming,I remain hopeful for the future students of this University.
Courageous students like Alisha Brizicky, who successfully executed atwo-night rendition of “The Vagina Monologues” in her backyard this pastweekend, demonstrate that you have the ability to overcome arbitrary restrictionsenforced by the powers that be. Whether you agree with the messageof the controversial play or not, it would be ignorant to not appreciate her efforts.Faced with a resounding “no” to her inquiry of hosting a performance on campus,Brizicky was resourceful and persistent, and hers is a story of independence,strength, and resounding success in the face of adversity. She deserves all ofour congratulations.
Finally, I remain hopeful because of The Torch. I remain hopeful that thisUniversity’s independent student newspaper will continue to question and critiquethe consensus of the administration and of the student body. I remain hopefulthat The Torch will encourage administrators to get it right and empower studentsto make noise when they don’t. I remain hopeful because, after a slew ofawards and (better yet) reaction from administration, The Torch has provenitself to be a powerful force in steering the lifeblood of this University.
I’ve resisted tradition here, avoiding a 1,000-word sappy thank-you letter toall of my friends and colleagues. But to pay homage to the editors, students, andfaculty that have shaped who I am today (of which there are too many to list here),I will close with the same words that Al Silvestri, perhaps the most talentedEditor-in-Chief to have ever served The Torch, has repeated again and again in somany of our conversations. To Greg Leporati, the new Editor-in- Chief, to all of the faculty, and to the students that can help continue to improve this University:”Keep fighting the good fight.”