Opinion: If my university loved me back…

By Denise Harroff—

Managing Editor

I’ve loved this place since the moment I stepped on campus. In 2012, I couldn’t wait to spend the next four years here. It has been an amazing experience, and my blood truly runs purple. However, after almost four years at Tarleton State University, I’ve come to the realization of some things. I truly believe that my love for this wonderful place has become a one-way relationship.

I used to be a Tarleton Transition Mentor, one of those people that leads groups of future freshmen at orientations and Duck Camp and Transition Week. The advisers and head honchos over TTM training preached “retention rates” to us and how important TTMs are to the process of keeping students from dropping out. Duck Camp was created for future students to develop a love for Tarleton. It’s important for new students to develop this love so that they won’t want to leave when their first semester is (surprise) harder than high school and they might consider dropping out. But why is it important for students not to drop out? If a Tarleton student drops out during their freshman year, the retention rate goes down. The university loses that student’s money. If the school’s retention rate looks bad, potential future students will see the ugly statistic and reconsider coming to Tarleton. In the university’s eyes, there goes that potential student’s money. That is the true reason why Tarleton cares so much about retention rates—not because they want all of their students to be “successful” but because a low retention rate equals less money from students.

Here’s the big picture; if the university loved me back, they would pay their Duck Camp leaders. Universities like Texas State and Baylor pay their freshman camps’ leaders for the hard work they put into the camps. Tarleton, however, requires each Duck Camp leader to pay for their own attendance—the same amount that attendees have to pay to go. If my university loved me back, it would pay for the students that put the hard work into helping raise the retention rate that Tarleton cares so much about upholding—not expect TTMs to pay out of pocket.

If my university really loved me back, it would focus its construction on the places its current students regularly visit instead of focusing all of its efforts into appealing to the next year’s freshman. Places like the agriculture building and the engineering and technology building are getting older and more worn out; the tiles and walls have cracks and the carpeted floors and wood in the rooms are so outdated. But “potential buyers” do not visit these places, so renovations are done elsewhere. The places this university puts all of its construction efforts into are places like the gorgeous student center we have and more residential, on-campus living—places where the university gives tours and holds orientation and shows off to potential future Tarleton students and parents. All of this goes on while a math student sits in a run-down, white-wall classroom and a dedicated professor sits in a closet-for-an-office inside Davis Hall, a very old dorm building. My university doesn’t love me back, because if it did, it would care more about the students who are already here and not so much about the students who aren’t here yet.

If my university loved me in the way that I love it, it would be extra-considerate of my safety. In the past year, the university has agreed with the city that it will be using the Stephenville Police Department’s dispatching system, because Tarleton PD does not have its own dispatching system. This means that, if you call the university police with an emergency, you will be transferred to the Stephenville Police Department, who will then call and dispatch a Tarleton police officer, only extending the amount of time it takes for someone to respond to the emergency. My trust has been shifted, against my own will, from the Tarleton police that I know and recognize well to the Stephenville police, who are located further away from campus. If my university loved me back, it would invest money into a dispatching system for the police on campus.

Lastly, if my university loved me back, it would care about honesty. Being a journalist, I am regularly sifting through open records and working with my co-workers on stories that bring truth to light—truth that people deserve to know. But sometimes when something “sticky” arises, my university is commonly unwilling to release public records. We have run into problems where administration and officers and others deny our right to public records, requiring hefty payments or denying to give open records in a timely manner, sometimes sending the records via snail-mail (rather than email) in order to lengthen the amount of time it takes for the information to get to the public. We still have yet to be told why ex-Vice President of Student Life Rusty Jergins was released from his position.

If my university loved me as much as I love it, it would value honesty with me. The last fiscal year, Texan News Service was literally the only organization on the Student Service Fee list to have a budget cut. We were denied the budget increase we requested, and we were actually cut $6,000 less than we received the year before. However, the second publication on campus, the JTAC (which is a part of Student Publications) was given a hefty increase in funds from the Student Service Fee—an increase of over $60,000. We are both student-run publications with student workers. The only major difference between the JTAC and Texan News Service is our content. Because the JTAC is created out of Student Life, most of their articles are written to shine a positive light on the university. There is nothing wrong with this form of publication, but we at Texan News Service more often post investigative pieces. We uncover hidden truths, tell students why their professor is no longer teaching, let students know break-downs of where their money is going, inform them of new organizations popping-up on campus and make public records truly public to the student body. If my university really loved me, they would be more willing to fund the organizations on campus that uncover the truth.

The thing is, I love Tarleton. I don’t even want to graduate; I wish I could stay for four more years. I walk around this place with pride and hum the color song at noon when I hear the bells chime. I hold a candle at Silver Taps with pride and sympathy in hopes that someone will do the same for me someday.

The problem is that the love between me and this university is a one-way street. When I graduate, I will be forgotten, and the sun will still rise over the campus each morning. Tarleton does not love me. It loves my money.


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14 Responses

  1. Austin Gravley says:

    I am not a Tarleton student, but I completely agree with what you’re saying here. I commend you on having the boldness and courage to say what needs to be said about university culture as a whole. I hope your piece will cause some change within your school, at the very least.

  2. Madison says:

    Love this article so much. I think you say things that a lot of people have been thinking themselves.

  3. Emily says:

    An opinion, yes but oh how short sided. The author states “Tarleton doesn’t love me, it just loves my money.” Because silver taps, student to faculty ratios, and easy assess to the presidents office all show that Tarleton doesn’t love you right? I mean what other state university can you attend where all of your professors know you by name? Where department heads will sit down with students to discuss a problem for over an hour? Where the president invites you into his home? It’s unheard of. I love my school but I am very disappointed in the number of students who recently complain about “the growth” our university is experiencing. Do you not understand Tarleton is trying to go D-1? In order to be D-1 you must have a certain number of facilities on your campus. It’s all about me, me, me, me. Well I don’t know about you but this fall I will graduate with a BSN from Tarleton Stare University. And I want that to mean something. I want Tarleton to be a university that is recognized across the state for its excellence and family atmosphere. So excuse me if I don’t care so much about parking 5 more blocks away, and cracks in the older academic buildings. Our campus was founded in 1899- not everything is going to be in tip top shape. This is a pivotal point in our universities history. Growth presents its fair share of challenges in any organization. You can wallow in the challenges of that change, or you can embrace it, look toward the future and understand that what is happening now is far greater than your own agenda. That’s what being a Tarleton Texan is all about, caring about the Texans of tomorrow. Not to receive anything in return, but to make a lasting impact for the future. About the only part of this article that I agreed wth is TTM payment. Everything else is very short sided, and sad…that people only see the current situation instead of the vision the university holds. Tarleton cares about you so much that they want you to carry a diploma from a university that means something. Where people say, wow. You went there? That’s too cool. And in order to get that growth is required.

  4. Josh Young says:

    Ouch. But every word is completely true. I spent 4 years at Tarleton from 2011 -2015. I feel exactly the same. So many programs are forgotten or the money is pulled somewhere more flashy. I think much of TSU’s vision has been lost to the scramble for D1 status. What is more important: Investing in your students’ education or getting more money from the state? I’m pretty sure it has been the latter for too long.

  5. Blake Preston says:

    As a student who is a 2nd year RL, A former tutor and SI leader for ARC, a former SGA senator, and a member of god knows how many other organizations all I can say is WOW. I’m incredibly sorry that you feel this way about our school but I find this article completely insulting to all the hard work that I and so many other students put into this school.

    • Tanner says:

      It’s only insulting to the people who don’t realize the entire reason a university exists in the first place. The free exchange of ideas, including the ones you don’t personally agree with. If you don’t like it, you should collect evidence and write your own article with valid points to contrast Ms. Harroff’s piece. Until then, you shouldn’t take insult or take personally the fact that some people have a different opinion than you. It’s not personal.

  6. Stacia Barrett says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I have felt that way twice in my life. The first was when I graduated from Tarleton in 2007 and the second when I graduated from Baylor in 2013. I used to recieve updates from my department and still felt a part of the campus. Then one year I didn’t renew my alumni membership and I had to go in search of news. I also did not like the idea of the rec center being built with the tuition of my classmates and I when I would never even step foot in it. But I can also see the other side of the coin. But it doesn’t make it hurt less since I bleed purple and the school doesn’t even know. People often associate me with Baylor as my last school attended and a well known one but for me the four years at Tarleton (that still causes me to feel disrespectful walking on grass, and requesting ducks in costumes for secret Santa gifts) was much more impactful that my time not on campus in grad school.

  7. Claire Wilkison says:

    The $60,000 increase may be going more towards the Grassburr rather then the JTAC. It costs thousands of dollars to produce hardback yearbooks in color. Depending on the publishing company, it can be VERY expensive. Especially when distributed to the entire student body.

  8. Tanner says:

    Wow. Excellent article bringing light to many issues I have noticed during my time here. Why don’t we know about Jergins yet? Politics, probably. The students deserve to know, and the lack of transparency from our administration is atrocious. Also, I almost never read the J-tac (like most students, lets be honest) and when I do, it’s only fluff stories. We are college students, mature enough to handle real and honest journalism, at least I would hope.

    We also pay our administrators HEFTY salaries (just google the salaries of these individuals, which are legally open to the public), but somehow they just can’t seem to afford to fund an honest news organization (among other academic organizations) dedicated to serving and informing existing students, not incoming. They spend tons of money based on things they WANT, not things they NEED. Fountain, anyone? While it is a nice fountain, I’m sure most would have rather seen that money go to something that would benefit the students directly, whether it be in the form of academics or even a new parking lot.

    A HUGE thanks to Denise Harroff and the team at Texan News Service for providing honest and real journalism to our students. I know your hard work is appreciated by students, at least. Unfortunately, the university system has been overrun with bureaucrats disguised as educational administrators. The value of money has clearly superseded the value of education in public universities, not just Tarleton. Hopefully, our generation can do something to change this. Good for you, Ms. Harroff.

  9. Skip Nichols says:

    I hope the university pays attention to the valid points raised by this young woman.

  10. Bill W says:

    Well said. Well written. Keep presenting your viewpoint.

  11. Moumin Quazi says:

    As a faculty member, I can definitely say, “I love you.” Thanks for sharing your opinion. Quite a courageous thing to do, in spite of the inevitable backlash you’ll feel from those too gung-ho to hear your rationally-argued heart.

    For the record (to those who might not understand my point), I’ve never met Ms. Harroff.

  12. Casey O'Neal says:

    Don’t you worry, Tarleton will not forget you after you graduate. I still get mail from them all the time asking for more money.

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