Flames of the Torch

This school year, the entire St. John’s community became wrapped up in the magical season that our men’s basketball team had under new head coach Steve Lavin. The team went from being one of the worst in their conference last season, to finishing at the top of the conference this year and making the NCAA tournament. It was a miraculous example of significant change, a rapid and complete reformation of our basketball program.

But this school year has also been the ground for two other examples of inspirational change at St. John’s—change that didn’t happen on the court but rather amongst the student body.

The first example is rooted in events that took place a year ago. Last spring, when the University announced it would be reshaping the schedule, many students stood up in anger.

They were angered by a schedule that seemingly made life a little harder for the community, but more importantly, they were angered by the way the administration had come to their decision: without greater consultation of students or faculty. Student unhappiness with the new schedule lingered over the summer and many students continued to speak out against the schedule change through the fall. The Torch covered this ongoing reaction to the new schedule, and even voiced its own concern in several editorials.

There was a movement of protest that wouldn’t simmer down, and it finally culminated a few months ago when the administration announced it would be revising the schedule for next year. Those students who had made their opinion known at the schedule forums, in the Torch and in letters to the administration had played a direct hand in influencing change.

The second example is more recent. When the University announced its plans for the upcoming 2011 commencement exercises, many students were outraged to find that the calling of the graduates’ names had been cut from the ceremony to preserve time and order. A Facebook group was created in protest (and quickly filled up with support) and a written petition began to circulate seeking signatures to present to the administration.

As in the case of the new schedule, the University listened to the impassioned outcries of these students, and the decision was reversed. Now, on May 15, all graduating seniors will have their names called during their commencement ceremony.

These are examples of real student engagement. Often times at St. John’s, the conversation comes up about the issue of student apathy within the University community. Many of us comment on the student engagement issue that exists here, and the numerous methods that the University has implemented to fight it (i.e. MVP points). However, these two examples of student-induced change prove that this student body has a pulse.

It exemplifies what students are capable of when they feel they have something to fight for, and it shows that the administration is ready to listen on the other end. This is nothing short of a positive sign for the future of this University. The optimistic precedent it sets should mean something to anyone who cares even a little bit about St. John’s University.

Regardless of the issues that students are choosing to fight for, we at the Torch are glad to see some fight at all. The only way to inspire change is to be active in carrying it out, and the students at this University are more than capable of doing just that.