The first week of classes brought with it an accolade a day for Case Western Reserve University, allowing the school to cross several items off of its bucket list.
Get recognized as one of the Top-25 LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities? Check. Enter “Washington Monthly’s” top 5 list of schools that contribute to our future? Also check. Provide a satisfactory experience to students on their first week of classes? Awkward turtle.
The distinctions Case Western Reserve received this past week should not come as a surprise. The university’s strong commitment to the LGBT community can be seen through the prime real estate the LGBT Center occupies in Thwing West, as well as the thoughtful programming and educational opportunities spearheaded by LGBT Center Director Liz Roccoforte.
Meanwhile, the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning, an office within the Division of Student Affairs, played a critical role in helping the university secure the No. 3 spot in “Washington Monthly’s” sub-ranking of institutional commitment to service.
Because of these awards, Case Western Reserve enjoyed a solid week in the limelight, with “The Plain Dealer,” WKYC-TV and WEWS-TV all touting the distinctions. However, the time has come for school administrators to stop drafting acceptance speeches and return to the business of the school and its students, much of which would not earn a national award in its current state.
I wonder if our ranking in “Washington Monthly” would slip if the editors had visited an overfilled campus lecture hall? Or if they stood in the lengthy dinner line that congregates outside of Leutner Commons? What if they tried drafting a research paper, only to find the library’s insufficient budget did not afford them the resources they needed?
The university continues to garner acknowledgements because of the values it honors; however, it continues to draw criticism because of the students it undervalues.
From outstanding faculty instructors to world-class research opportunities, the list of Case Western Reserve’s positive attributes is certainly full. But campus leaders should not forget that most students don’t just learn here; they live, work, congregate and relax here, as well. And these are the areas where more work is needed.
This academic year, I urge the university’s administration to push the student experience past its usual boundaries. Vice presidents who rarely venture outside of Adelbert Hall should try interacting with students and take the time to not only hear—but comprehend—the issues that are important to them.
In addition, the administration must become more transparent about the plans it is creating to combat the challenges we are facing. The phrase “something is in the works” has been heard too often and left unconnected to tangible progress. I’m sure the institution’s leadership would find students to be more interested than they think, and I’ll personally guarantee them column inches anytime they wish to explain a new initiative or outline the challenges to a complex problem.
The waiting begins.