Columns / Discourse / Student Senate / March 4, 2010

The Senate Perspective: Faculty and campus life

We are a community that both lives and learns together; we share nearly every success and every failure, just like a family. For many, it is this sense of family or community that attracted us to this campus. It is the warm, inviting, and smiling atmosphere that makes Knox unique. Lately, however, the smiling faces have not been as prevalent as we as a community has begun to tackle some major issues. As a result, some feelings of hostility and distrust have emerged and neither of these is beneficial to the longevity of our community. We cannot sustain the current atmosphere of suspicion and negativity.

One step in the right direction was the forum. At the forum on Monday evening, members of the Student Senate Executive Board were both surprised and elated at the sheer number of students and faculty members who came out to speak, discuss and listen. We consider the event a success and hope to see it fostered into an ongoing student-initiated program.

The Executive Board was particularly impressed at the number of faculty members who were present at the forum. Many felt it was practically an all-time high for professors attending a student event outside of Pumphandle, I-Fair, and Flunk Day. It was great to see the nearly 30 or so faculty members sitting in the audience with the students – after all, throughout our Knox career we are educated in an environment where we are considered equals with our professors. That being said, we were also reminded that ultimate governance of student life is under the purview of the faculty. With respect to that structure, there are some inconsistencies between actions and words that we would like see addressed.

Members of the faculty cannot exist in this community from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and still expect to understand and make key decisions regarding student life. The social nature of student life here is highly complicated at best and requires more experience than just that within the walls of the academic classrooms or through our close student-professor relationships. Professors cannot simply read TKS to understand the entire campus environment or come to a student forum and expect that they have a broad enough experience level to make decisions regarding the entirety of our social life.

To really understand our highly complex and ever changing lives, our professors need to stay on campus past 4 p.m. more often. This means actively advising the clubs they sponsor, attending social events of all types and participating in the philanthropic activities on campus. We recognize that your time is valuable and that many of you do have families to care for, but we all are a Knox “family.” We cannot be understood when the main interaction outside the classroom is by attending student forums addressing sexual assault; our professors must also come to the good events we host to understand the full student experience.

The full student experience at Knox cannot be understood through hypothetical discussions or through statistics, because, as students, our social life cannot be comprehended without a direct experience. I ask that our professors make a greater effort to spend more time on campus at student-sponsored events of all types. If we are to foster a community that is both transparent and accountable, then this is one step that needs to be taken. Nearly every term at a meeting I hear a faculty member comment about the not-so-distant-past when the professors were highly active in campus life. Let’s return to that! Let’s bridge the gap between the student and the faculty experience and synthesize our community. By pulling together now, a system of trust will emerge and isn’t that exactly what we need? Let’s start trusting each other and be that community that we all know and love. Further synthesizing the ability to live and learn, through increased professor involvement with daily campus life will go a long way to sustain our unique campus culture and help us achieve unity and trust.

Heather Kopec

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