Late last month, a new finals schedule for the spring 2015 semester was announced. Finals will now be condensed in six days instead of the usual nine, making it more likely that students will have three exams on a single day and forcing them to change study habits.
Many students and the Unified Student Government Association (USGA) executive board alike were surprised and disappointed that university administrators could make this decision with no student input.
But this isn’t the first time decisions have been made this way.
Toward the end of the spring 2013 semester, Loyola Dining Services and its provider, Aramark, announced that meal plan prices and options would be changed for the 2013-2014 school year. This included a 35 percent price hike for freshmen and the removal of the declining balance option for sophomores. This decision was not taken lightly by the student body.
On April 5, 2013 nearly 100 students gathered for a rally that, according to protesters, was highly regulated by the presence of Loyola officials and Campus Safety officers. A USGA petition opposing the changes gathered 1,200 signatures and 310 call-in comments, all in protest of the new meal plan options. But the administration still went ahead with the plans.
More expensive meal plans were not the only difference in dining services that year, though. In fall 2013, the dining options at Loyola’s Water Tower Campus changed drastically as the popular Terry Food Court was removed and Lu’s Deli & Pub opened.
This limited dining options for lunch and dinner and removed the ability to purchase groceries and household goods on the Water Tower Campus. Despite student complaints and a staff editorial written by The PHOENIX that year, nothing changed.
While the changes in the finals schedule and dining options affect nearly all students, seemingly spur-of-the-moment decisions handed down from the administration have also impacted more specific, smaller groups on campus.
Right before finals in the spring 2014 semester, leaders in Greek life were told that recruitment for the following school year (2014-2015) would be moved to the spring semester instead of taking place during fall as it had previously. The decision was made by administration above Student Activities and Greek Affairs and Sorority and Fraternity Life and without these groups’ consultation. Fruitless attempts to protest left Greek life leaders discouraged, feeling that their discussions with Student Development earlier that semester about the interactions between Greek life leaders and the administration had not mattered.
On the first day of this school year, students were introduced to a new intercampus shuttle system. While some simply had to get used to new buses and a different route, nursing students were left without means to get to Loyola’s Health Sciences Campus in Maywood. Despite a petition with more than 175 signatures, there is still no transportation to Maywood offered by the university.
The fact of the matter is that students feel their input is not respected by university administration, and this needs to change.
In an online survey conducted by The PHOENIX, 100 students were asked to rank how often they feel the university takes student input into account before making decisions. Just over 30 percent of students responded that their opinions were never valued, while a staggering 88 percent of respondents said they thought that, more often than not, student input was not valued. Only one of the 100 respondents indicated that the university always values student input.
In addition, 77 percent of those surveyed said they had been personally affected by a recent university decision. Of those students, 84 percent said their input wasn’t considered regarding the decision(s).
The administration of a university that promotes the free exchange of ideas as “a hallmark of the intellectual vitality and social awareness of the student body,” according to its Community Standards, should be absolutely appalled by these numbers.
When students were asked to name recent university decisions that were made with the help of students’ opinions, many of the answers were about USGA initiatives such as the water bottle ban or the College of Arts and Sciences course syllabi project or trivial things such as naming the Kenmore Plaza or deciding the dinner in de Nobili on Thursdays.
Loyola’s five-year Strategic Plan, which strives to “reimagine the genuine means of social justice in our academics and for students,” was also brought up by those surveyed. While some students cited the three forums –– held in late October and early November, with the final taking place Nov. 13 –– as a means for the university to gain student input, many weren’t impressed.
Loyola created the visioning document for the five-year Strategic Plan before seeking student input and included only one mention of student input in the document itself. Other than the forums put on by Student Development, there are currently no plans for including students’ opinions. During these forums, representatives listen to students brainstorm and pass ideas brought in administration.
Unfortunately, this seems to be where student voices get lost.
Students came together from a variety of organizations to form the Social Justice Coalition, which then created a document explaining what members thought were important ideas to include in the five-year Strategic Plan. The group’s ultimate objective, though, is to get students involved in every stage of the planning process and to not allow the university to make the decisions and ask for input later.
The problem thus far has been that there is no clear line of communication between students and those higher-ups in the strategic planning group.
The bottom line is that the university needs to ask for and value the opinions of its students about “big picture” projects (such as the five-year Strategic Plan) as well as immediate decisions (such as changing the finals schedule) before finalizing them.
We aren’t administrators. We don’t know how to budget a university and we are kept out of a majority of the politics behind many decisions. We are students. We aren’t trying to tell administrators how to do their jobs, many of us wouldn’t even know where to start. But at the same time, administrators shouldn’t assume they always know what’s best for students.
Each decision the administration hands down –– changing the finals schedule, increasing the cost of meal plans, switching transportation companies, closing Southside Market and Terry Food Court, moving Greek life recruitment –– affects every student currently enrolled in the university in one way or another. When the university makes these seemingly spur-of-the-moment decisions, it is unfair to the students who are forced to deal with the consequences of something they may have never wanted in the first place.
Each and every student enrolled at Loyola makes it the institution that it is. Yes, we are by definition a Jesuit university, and certain values are inherent in that title, but what would happen if students chose not to uphold these values –– particularly that of social justice? Simply put, the school would not be the same.
The students here are passionate. We are taught to express ourselves and let our opinions be heard. When we don’t like some- thing or think it shouldn’t be happening, we are taught to try to change it. We are taught to “go forth and set the world on fire.”
It is insulting for a university that promotes these ideas to make decisions that directly affect students and then, only afterwards, look for student input. Even worse is that student input is often dis- regarded because decisions have already been set in stone.
The administration needs to place more value in us, the students. It needs to hear the voices of those being educated to lead extraordinary lives, whether those voices are in praise or protest, and it needs to act according to what those voices are saying.