Over the last four years, the Knox student body has grown by 15%. Knox is now at a strong 1,350 students, and senior staff intends to keep it that way. Dean Xavier Romano says there are several different aspects to how this growth affects students: academics, extracurricular activities, and residential life.
The academic program keeps a “mandated ratio of faculty to students of one to eleven. Students shouldn’t feel any difference in the classroom.” The Student-Life Committee is currently putting together a survey for the campus clubs to see how the growth has affected them, whether there are things clubs can do now that they couldn’t before, and also what the growth has made difficult. This survey is still in the drafting process, and the meeting to discuss its format and questions isn’t for another two weeks. Results of this survey should be available within the next couple of months.
Students will feel the growth most strongly in the area of residential life. Associate Dean of Students for Residential Learning Craig Southern said that there is no new housing planned. His goal is to “keep the housing we have stable.”
Because the number of students living on campus has a cap, the number of juniors and seniors living off-campus has increased. The number of people living off-campus depends on the number of students planning to go abroad. Southern said, “My job as a housing director is to be very close to 100% capacity.” Romano said that Knox is currently at a 98% capacity, which allows for just enough flexibility.
The number of students living off-campus has, as Romano said, “been an incredible boom.” There are a lot of activities off campus, so the off-campus apartments and Cherry St. become an extension of campus. Things like Jazz Night and Artsplosion get an incredible turnout, even though they are technically off-campus events. “We cannot divorce ourselves from downtown Galesburg. We’re a part of that community,” said Romano. “I think our students are more involved in the Galesburg community than they were five years ago. Is that because more are living off-campus? I don’t know,” said Southern.
The question of the moment is about what Knox will be in the future. Is Knox going to stay at its current level, or continue to grow even larger? Southern responded to the question by suggesting the next entering class may be smaller due to the recent economic troubles. Already, the number of applicants has decreased by 18%, according to President Roger Taylor.
Dean Romano spoke about needs he sees at Knox. He hopes that clubs and organizations will have office space and space for producing posters and banners. He’d like to see somewhere besides CFA’s round room and Kresge for students to watch movies. “What we learned from conversations with the Greek Task Force that there’s a need on campus for additional space for students just to have functions, to have fun, to have activities: spaces [to reserve] that can be manipulated for thematic purposes or just to congregate, whatever’s necessary. That was one of the really positive outcomes of the task force.”
The increase to 1,350 students has made the school economically stronger, and better able to withstand the current economic crisis. It would be worse if the population had shrunk, but staying at 1,350 is a really good thing in Dean Romano’s eyes. “We have no desire to change who we are, simply to become a better version of who we are, to be stronger academically and financially, long term, and competitive as a national liberal arts institution,” said Romano. “Knox isn’t going anywhere for the next 100, 200, 300 years.”