Opinion: If my university loved me back…
By Denise Harroff—
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.