Editorial: Lack of campus identity makes it harder to find

The Commission for the Undergraduate Experience (CUE) is on a mission to better all aspects of student life on campus.

On Sept. 29, the CUE released its Preliminary Recommendations on “Enhancing the Undergraduate Experience”, and it was emailed to the student body on Oct. 3. The report is structured around the three guiding principles of unity, preparation and wellness, with a focus on reducing stress for students and increasing our campus’ sense of community.

We were extremely impressed by the honesty presented in the report. The CUE makes no attempts to hide Case Western Reserve University’s problems with student satisfaction, retention and prospective students’ perception of the university, among other issues. Instead, it presents a candid assessment of these problems, which is the first step toward creating practical solutions to make undergraduate life at CWRU a better experience for all.

In the report, it is clear that the CUE worked hard to listen to students’ complaints and concerns about common problems such as the often overwhelming workload and the lack of community on campus. Three undergraduates even sat on the committee—two of which remain part of it—to get to where the commission is today.

The CUE also hired an educational consulting group to conduct a study to better understand how prospective students see our university and to identify the best strategies to improve undergraduate life. The report is striking in the amount of care and concern it exhibits for the CWRU community.

One of the main problems that the report lists is the lack of identity among CWRU students. The CUE’s extensive research traces this problem to many of our university’s problems, including attracting prospective students.

Two weeks ago, we discussed the three-year Strategic Plan released by the Division of Student Affairs. That plan identified and focused in-part on addressing a lack of unity and belonging on campus.

Multiple teams clearly recognized the void of a campus identity, here. It’s time to fix this problem.

But the Editorial Board is concerned that it is this very lack of identity that will make it difficult for our community to overcome the challenges we currently face.

The CUE plans to continue incorporating student feedback as it begins working toward its proposed solutions, which we commend. We worry that because CWRU lacks a sense of cohesion, the community will not step up to give opinions to the CUE. Students who do not feel a strong connection to CWRU are unlikely to thoroughly review the 83-page report, attend the scheduled feedback sessions or email the provost with their opinions.

This is problematic, because while the CUE has created outlines for solutions to some of our campus’ issues, they need feedback from the people who will be impacted by these solutions. The key to developing effective strategies to address student dissatisfaction is more conversation on campus.

We encourage all undergraduates to read the report, think critically about the changes it proposes and provide their opinions, whether by communicating directly with the provost, attending a feedback session or scheduling an appointment with the chair of the CUE.

When reading the report, check out Recommendation 1 (adopting a University General Education Requirement) and its accompanying Draft Proposal in Appendix D.

Though it’s still in the early planning stages, the University General Education requirement will be designed to simplify the curriculum for all students and create a feeling of intellectual community, as students from a broad variety of majors will be taking the same general courses. With the new requirements, future students will be able to complete the General Education Requirement, a major and even an unrelated minor all within 128 credits, or 16 credits per semester.

We think that this proposal has the potential to dramatically change the undergraduate experience for the better by lightening unnecessarily heavy course loads and promoting intellectual diversity. At this early stage, however, it is unrefined. We need all students to participate in opportunities for feedback to help make this plan—as well as the other strategies discussed in the report—the best it can be.

The CUE has clearly invested a significant amount of time, thought and money into helping create a better undergraduate experience. Now it is up to the rest of our campus to do their part.