Although the President of a college or university is the top administrator in charge (on campus – the Board of Trustee’s usually has equal power, in general), they are usually the last person to hear about a problem.
Proper protocol is usually required to get to the bottom of a situation. Sometimes you have to start with an RA or the Dean of Students; each issue has its own designated driver to get to the bottom of what’s going on. However, when you reach the end of the line and nothing is solved, going past the usual set of rules and skipping to the top becomes the only option if you want action!
After going all freshman year without much success from the Dean of Students and the Housing and Residence Life, my mom and I decided to set some time aside to schedule a meeting with the President of my university in hopes to get everything sorted out. Eager to put an end to the continual issues that beleaguered me throughout my first two semesters in college, I expected results and an apology from my university’s president.
Before going into the meeting I compiled a list of all the things that happened and how they were handled. I remember looking down at the list as we walked into her large office thinking that it really was one thing too many. As my mother and I spoke openly about my experience at Hollins and the issues that I have seen on campus such as bullying, harassment, and the roommate debacle I survived, President Gray (a very cheerful, articulate, and warm woman) sat across from us with a look of disbelief on her face. In telling her about the botched responsibilities of the Student Life administration, she spoke about not knowing these issues beset her campus. Apologizing for the terrible experience I have had on the campus, President Gray looked forward to making my university a better place with input on how to improve.
Working through the main issues my mom and I brought up, President Gray thought of ideas to help take preventative measures for other students on campus. For example, she came up with the idea of putting peep-holes in every first-years’ door, so they could look out and see who was at their door. I thought it was a great idea because maybe if I heard someone outside my door when words like bitch and whore were slewed in erasable markers on my whiteboard, I could have caught them.
She thought of implementing a bullying policy into the 2007-2008 student handbook, which I thought would help the administration define in better terms what bullying actually is. And to help me feel safe and calm in my living situation for my sophomore year, President Gray promised me that I would not have to live in the first year dorm again (which was where I was placed in a single due to a shortage of singles in upperclassmen housing) and that some type of housing compensation would occur for the price distinction of living with a roommate and on my own, in a single.
Leaving the meeting with her, I finally felt relief.
Fall 2007 rolled around, and it was time to go back to school. And then it became clear – all promises were off. Suddenly, the school had no available single for me in any building except the building President Gray agreed with my mom that I should not live in again. The only option was for me to live in a double room, as a single. However, the university decided that if I did that, they would not pay damages of lasts years woes in the form of a single room, like they formerly planned to do. When inquiring about this with the president, she said via e-mail that she didn’t remember deciding I would live elsewhere than the single I reserved in the first year dorm, in the first place.
Just as all these promises seemed to not be carried out, the president herself seemed to vanish off into the sunset for a week or two long vacation. Leaving me with the option of living in the overly expensive double as a single, I moved into my dorm early to help out with first year orientation (expect a story next week about this orientation) feeling cheated, ignored, and taken as a joke yet again by Hollins and its administration. After dishing out an extra $1,000+ or so, after I was told I wouldn’t have to, I couldn’t help but feel lied to … especially when I ran into the President during freshman orientation and she asked if I was pleased with the start of my sophomore year at Hollins. Seriously…give me a break!
Although she can talk the talk of being a professionally polished president, she failed at keeping her word. Disenchanted yet again by the university I chose to attend, I felt like I had nowhere to turn. If the President will listen, but not act or take her own promise earnestly – who will?
Just because the president doesn’t follow through on the school’s mission statement or promise doesn’t mean your issues as a student should fall on the back burner. Everyone deserves an education worth achieving and a student life worth living, and the appreciation of this keeps me pushing through to help make my university a better place, even in spite of its substandard character traits and underhanded administration.