For every solution to any problem, another problem arises.
Since the arrival of Esther Peralez as Western’s vice president for Student Affairs, several staff veterans have left the employ of Western. There’s no beating around the bush, these people were valuable assets to Western and students loved them. Talk to some students and they might tell you they needed them.
Ellen Kisker, Don Willis and Huey Shi Chew are just three of the people that come to mind. Even though these people worked with different groups of students they all have one thing in common, they worked with them individually and relentlessly.
While the plan to move Student Affairs to a more broad perspective of student development and focus on theories and professional competencies may benefit students, it’s hurting them at the same time. Whether it was helping out with visas, finding non-trads scholarships or staying up late to help set up a concert, these staff members were role models of work ethic.
Every employee at Western is here to make a difference in students’ lives. Whether they are a staff member or a professor, they’re here to mentor and teach in some capacity. The question that needs to be answered is that would Student Affairs rather make a large impact in a few students’ lives or a small impact in a lot of students’ lives?
Sure, it’s important to include everyone, but it’s not like people are getting turned away. Stacey Hersh, a non-trad that worked with Kisker, said that she didn’t just work with non-trads. Any student could use the lounge for support.
It’s understandable that Western doesn’t have the budget to hire someone to focus on all of the individual groups of students, but it’s also a matter of priorities. There are more international students on our campus than there ever has been and maybe they need someone whose sole responsibility is integrating them into American culture. Hands down, non-traditional students are the busiest students on campus. Fifteen credit hours, 20 or 40 hour work week, kids, family, job, house payment—maybe they need someone to cut a little leg work out of the equation for them.
Let’s face it, Western isn’t like any other school in Missouri. Besides the low tuition, our open enrollment policy makes us diverse. Whether you’re coming back to school to retrain your skill sets or Western just happens to be the cheapest 4-year university, you’re here to get a degree, find a job and move on.
For some of us that’s enough, and Student Affairs should respect that. At the same time, students should seize opportunities that Student Affairs offers. While Ellen Kisker was here, she was a resource for non-trads. There are many people like her still here. Need a job; see Mathew Greg. Curious about the different cultures and sub-cultures; see Tay Triggs. Having trouble with stress; visit a counselor.
If the direction that Student Affairs is going is making valuable personnel jump ship, maybe that direction should be reassessed.