It is encouraging to see that the goals Knox intends to prioritize in its next strategic plan largely line up with what we as students care about and that the school is looking back at where the Knox 2018 plan fell short. Concerns about the financial future of the school have grown on campus, as we hear people throw around the idea of the school closing in the near future. While those claims are more alarmist than our current situation justifies, it is clear that work on the school’s budget has to be put front and center.
What also has to be front and center in this process is the voice of the student body. Knox’s current dilemma is largely about how we see sustain enrollment amid the current conditions of higher education. Which means it’s essential to listen to students about what draws them to Knox, and what obstacles come between them and staying at Knox.
Obviously the affordability of college will top the issues students are interested in raising, and there should be ongoing pressure to meaningfully address the cost of higher education. But Knox’s administration is looking at other genuine challenges we experience, like the mental health strain that can come with trying to stay afloat during the tight trimester schedule. That’s the type of topic where the student voice can make an impact. No matter how impenetrable these strategic plan issues may seem, every student has the experience to speak to what would make their time at Knox better.
Knox plans to make student voices a part of the process. Exactly how the school will approach making sure it is hearing a diverse set of voices that fully represent the campus community is still to be determined, but what’s within our control as students is making sure we are actually seeking to involve ourselves in the process.
It may be easy to feel this can just be left to the administration to deal with, or that it can be assumed other students will take up the responsibility of making administration aware of the campus’s concerns. When this attitude is widely held, however, it leads to poorly attended feedback events and administration not knowing if the problems they are hearing about accurately reflect what the campus feels more generally. It makes it unclear what directions students really want the school to go in.
Of course, it is not necessarily easy for the average student on campus to make sure they’re involved. You have to be watching out for when the opportunities to give student feedback pop up. It requires mental energy from you at a point in the middle of the term when that energy may be in short supply. Being involved with other student life on campus may keep you from being able to attend any events where you can directly address administration.
These issues are valid, which is why the administration will have to think about how to best go about reaching out for student views. But it is still a necessity that students not choose to entirely detach themselves from caring about the future direction of their school. The health of a college depends on the engagement of its students, and how effective the next strategic plan will have a lot to do with how active students are in pushing the institution to address their needs.