This is a place where we study and grow together, where we challenge our understanding and learn how to be better, more diligent people. The core of what the university experience does is development. We take what cannot be taught and nurture it, and what can be taught is imparted through the expertise of our professors. In doing so, we develop the potential inside each student and give them the tools necessary to succeed. Each of us spends our few years here studying well, and pushing ourselves. It is clear then what our university is. A university is an academic institution first and foremost, but it would be foolish to argue that is all a university is.
We live here. For many, it is our home away from home. For others, it might be the only home they have right now. We eat, sleep, laugh, and cry. We thrive here. We play sports, engage with clubs, flirt with political activism, build friendships, and and even find love. The university, and specifically Eastern University is an incredibly important part of every student’s life. Good or bad, these memories will stick with us, and our lessons will guide us. It is not surprising then that the ability to determine our experience here is not taken lightly.
Through the student government and other channels, students often express their thoughts and feelings made by the university’s leadership. However, this sentiment does not always make its way through to those who make the decisions and voices go unheard. There are a couple of reasons for this, and you would be hard pressed to find any specific individual to blame. Ultimately, the course this university takes is not always in line with where its residents wish it would go. It might be argued that this isn’t a bad thing at all, but it happens nonetheless.
Some schools I have visited have a much more democratic understanding of student involvement. At one school, monthly meetings of the student body decide important residence life decisions through a direct democratic system. Now, academic policy is out of this body’s hands (for good reason), but this is still a far cry away from what we enjoy here at Eastern. It seems that the balance of control is somewhat difficult to manage. Should the balance lean too heavily on democratic governance, the system might grind to a halt or be overridden by whatever majority opinion was in control, but should it tilt too far the other way, would it be attractive to live in that place? I can’t imagine voluntarily agreeing to have every aspect of my life controlled, but I fear the dangerous temptation towards a totally democratic university. On average, students spend four years in college. By what rationale do they get to decide things that will affect people after they are gone in such a short time, or to overturn what those who came before set in place? This is an extreme example, but it drives home the point. Could we stand to allow more democracy in our academic institutions, or is the danger too great?