Discourse / Editorials / February 11, 2010

On student autonomy

The addressing of the issue of student autonomy at the Senate meeting was a little odd and sketchy. Oops. But the solution, to me at least, was pretty simple. Tuition pays a chunk (not all) of the bills around here — and maybe a couple government grants — but a big chunk is tuition. So one would jump to the conclusion that students should run the admins with a pretty phenomenal cosmic power.

But that’s almost kind of ridiculous. Our turnover is so dynamic. Students are here for about 4 to 5 years and every year leaders go out the commencement door and leaders come in the convocational door. So the purpose of the senior staff is to form some type of continuity for the students to tread on. But recently, they have just started running the show.

Not cool admins, not cool.

It should play out like this: ultimate student power with phenomenal admin advising, nay, administrative teaching. Remember these members of senior staff are…old — some ancient. And old gives experience. It’s important that they only teach us their old, sometimes archaic, ways but it’s 10 times more important that we put out the effort to synthesize our young new ideas with those ways. This makes strides forward.

But I should say that mistakes have been made. I have made a pretty big mistake and it’s kicking me in the pants currently. Where do we draw the line of staff-student friendships — particularly with the Office of Student Development? How much of your personal issues and life is it appropriate to share with the Dean? I hate to admit it, but I should have listened to my mother when I told her I text my Dean and she said, “That’s weird and inappropriate — point blank.”

I feel like a convert speaking to the masses that this type of relationship is inappropriate and should cease. I was in awe by the feeling that I could and I didn’t stop to think if I should. The relationships cultivated become problematic when conflicts arise and most of these relationships begin with the motive of networking for career advancement — some pretty good-looking letters of recommendation on resumes.

But when you get comfortable, those relationships breed subconscious alliance. Alliance breeds gossip and when issues come walking in the door, progress gets hindered and relationships suffer. Students on the outside looking at these relationships become sour and many suspect an almost ridiculous notion of conspiracy. (Well, I think it’s a ridiculous notion. Maybe it’s true.)

Point blank, a further rift between students and admins arises and grows exponentially. That is, until the Knox amnesia kicks in after about two weeks—this is inappropriate. The texting opportunity should be for basic Q&A only: Is today Flunk Day? How do I compose X grant proposal? Who do I speak to about X issue? Not about your love life. Not your personal quibbles with students. Not gossip. This is inappropriate and I regret that I, too, did some of the above.

It is the Office of Student Development. The title implies student body development, not personal student counseling. We have the Counseling Center for that. Now, I’m not supposed to sign as Student Senate Safety and Services Chair, because I didn’t really ask anyone, so this is just regular old me talking. But as a regular person, I would still tell Senate that this isn’t a safe service that the Office of Student Development is offering.

Gabe Paz

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