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Restoring faith in UT key for school spirit

On January 30, 2013

 

It was one of those meetings that I wasn’t thrilled to attend until I heard there would be food. And as a poor college student who takes pride in cutting costs wherever I can, my hesitation immediately dissipated upon the words “free pizza.”

In this meeting we basically brainstormed ways to improve student life and activities. I had just finished eating my second piece of pizza when the topic shifted. Apparently, UT is suffering from a lack of school spirit and the moderator wanted us to figure out how to solve this crisis. Students then began to offer suggestions on ways to improve school spirit, which included wearing more UT apparel, banning students from wearing sweatshirts from other colleges, increasing turnout to football games and having more activities for students.

It may be that UT does suffer from a lack of school spirit, but school spirit is not really about whether or not students wear school colors. It feels like recently I’ve overheard more and more students and even professors and administrators say, “I hate UT.”

On the surface it probably seems like these people lack school spirit, especially if they were wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt. However, with many of the profit-oriented changes taking place that are likely to have a toll on students, professors and faculty at UT, it’s understandable to see why these people are frustrated.

When I hear people say that they hate UT, it is often coupled with an explanation of a time when UT did not live up to its student-centered mission or its promise as the premiere research institution in the area. As they defend their position, it doesn’t seem like they simply hate UT, but that they are frustrated by the discrepancy between the values the university purports to promote, such as academic achievement and excellence, and their actions that seem the counter to achieving these goals.

School spirit involves more than the sports life and blue and gold décor at UT. Since UT is still an academic instuition, school spirit begins with the community of students, professors and faculty who come here to educate and learn. School spirit is found in the relationships students build with professors, faculty, peers and even community leaders who help us develop into intellectual, social, ethical and civic members of the UT community.

The administration’s ongoing and currently proposed changes to the classroom and student services threaten this learning community. These changes include more online classes, increased class sizes, eliminating part-time and visiting teaching positions, increasing full-time professors’ work loads, limiting the availability of tenure positions, eliminating faculty positions and adding student services like ATOD and SAEPP to faculty’s already substantial workload. All of which isolate the students, professors and faculty members from each other and end up disintegrating the space where school spirit thrives.

UT proudly totes their “student-centeredness” tagline, but the administration continues to make changes at the expense of the student community. Students rely on tenured professors to know their work in order to get recommendations for scholarships, graduate schools and jobs. Students also rely on student services that help them with issues outside of the classroom that may affect their ability to perform in the classroom.

These proposed changes at UT demonstrate a lack of respect for the professors, the classroom, the faculty and the way academic research has proven students learn best. A lack of student-based community at the university will ultimately disrupt academics, decrease an already poor retention rate and sacrifice UT’s student-centeredness mission.

My education has been profoundly shaped by the community on campus. It has informed the way I view the world and operate within it. My school spirit began in my engagement with my peers, professors and faculty members in the classroom and student involvement. My Rocket Pride is the pride in the people on campus who challenged me to think, be creative and become a well-rounded member of a community.

In order to improve school spirit on campus, we need to restore faith in UT’s academic community and be able to trust that the administration understands both what it means to be academic and what it means to have community. When I hear of yet another administrative effort to garner profits, cut costs, or restructure resources, I lose whatever spirit I have for this school because I recognize that we have become more of a business than a community. If we at UT could once again have Rocket Pride in the people who make up our academy I would proudly wear my blue and gold and shake my pom-poms for the rest of my life. These people—the faculty, the students, the staff, and yes, even the administrators—are, after all, the true spirit of the school and they should always be the focus of why we cheer The University of Toledo.

Jeanetta Mohlke-Hill is a senior majoring in women and gender studies.

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