By Kierra Whitaker; The Whetstone
It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re faculty, part of the staff or a student – most Wesley College campus folks just don’t want to get involved with events on campus.
Junior Wendy-Akua Adjei believes that some faculty and staff dampen the spirit of the college.
“Faculty and staff are not the happiest to be here, so why should students feel the different?” she said. “You would think that they will say ‘Get into the college experience,’ or, ‘Have some fun by getting involved,’ but most can be negative about the school.”
And the same seems to go for staff and students.
Some students said it’s the general atmosphere that has been the problem for low student engagement.
“Student engagement on campus is very low,” Student Government Association (SGA) secretary Brooke Retkowski said. “The only interactions we typically see are within the organizations under the Student Government Association (SGA) who have a budget.”
The people who attend SGA meetings often include only organization board members.
“Every time we host a congress meeting, we typically see fewer than five students who say they are there and are not associated with a specific club or organization and they are the same every meeting,” she said.
It’s as much the students as faculty or staff, said Quameshia Callwood, north campus area coordinator.
“I feel like the atmosphere here at Wesley has declined due to low school spirit that students exhibit,” she said.
There’s no school spirit, senior Alana Corry said.
“When I started in 2015, students were engaged and presenting Wesley with pride,” she said. “Now not so much.”
One professor said he thinks the changes in enrollment affect student involvement.
“Wesley depends on tuition for its operating budget,” Dr. Jeffery Mask said. “(Students who pay tuition) are down, so budgets are tight. When people must be careful with every penny they spend, they often become a bit tense.”
He said he hopes to see the new leadership in admissions (David Buckingham) “can turn our enrollment trends around.”
Student engagement has seen its ups and downs with faculty and staff.
Engagement by both faculty and staff is low, Retkowski said.
“One of our goals was to break the barrier between the administration and the student body in order to get more things accomplished within the school,” she said. “This is still a working process.”
If the atmosphere is demoralizing, or they have a bad experience with a teacher or staff member, students get turned off, said Campus Life Coordinator Mark Berry.
“Students speak about not doing certain things or being involved once they have a bad experience with the school,” he said.
Mask said a big part of the problem is that many students simply are not prepared for the work college requires.
“Since ‘No Child Left Behind’ and state testing programs, students are less prepared, and apparently less able to read, write, and think critically when they get to college,” he said.
Callwood said she has seen a decline in student involvement.
Retkowski said it might be student organization leaders’ fault as well.
“There’s not a lot of action in making involvement a priority,” she said. “This could be due to a lack of communication or a lack of leadership in certain roles. We have been stressing the importance to these organizations on campus to reach out to students.”
Although there are new leadership roles within the school, some students think it is still a waste of time to be involved when no one supports them but the same people.
“Organizations are tired of planning events that no one shows up to,” senior Sydney Brokenborough said. “When I was active in my organization our adviser just signed off on the paperwork and never showed up to our events.”
Student organizations really do try hard make events for the campus community, Adjei said.
“But it’s really disheartening and discouraging when people don’t come out at all,” she said. “Some say to solve this problem is to just tell them to come out, but it’s hard when students genuinely don’t care.”
Some upperclassmen said they feel almost nostalgic about their freshmen year.
“When I was a freshman in 2016, we had student leaders on campus that made us want to actually attend their hosted events,” Brokenborough said. “There were high hopes for Wesley, the conditions were bad, but we looked passed it.”
Some believe the tradition has been lost at Wesley.
“Students love hanging in their dorms more than being out,” senior Ian Thorne said. “The tradition has been lost at Wesley. At times, staff would have to force students to leave an area after an event, but that’s not a problem today.”
Some new student leaders try to keep traditional events alive at Wesley, Brokenborough said. “And the newer students really don’t know the meaning of them. Those student leaders left an impact on us, but no one continued their traditions.”
She said her freshman class “actually wanted to go out to support organizations and experience what college really was. Today you have to force people or promise them an incentive to get them to attend. Once you get them out of their rooms, you have to convince them to stay.”
Most students said they were fed up.
It’s everyone, not just the faculty, or the staff, or the students, senior Elijah Tinson said.
“I can’t blame just the faculty and staff for what the students are doing,” he said. “But no one cares to anything around here.”
Senior Abdul Fadipe said he’s noticed a lot of pettiness at Wesley.
“Students and staff think they are too good to participate at the college unless it benefits them,” he said. “Faculty and staff never tell us anything. We always find out through each other.”
Nursing graduate Kaylyn Hall said some students only want to be an audience.
“Students rather be entertained than to make entertainment for themselves or to support their fellow peers,” she said.
Some students said they wish Wesley was fun and exciting.
“We have high expectations to be a ‘lit’ school, but we have to take into consideration that we are a small college,” business graduate Bre’anne Smith said.
Some students, including graduates, said the problem lies in the mechanics of getting an event approved in a timely manner.
“Four weeks is a long time for an event to get approved,” Brokenborough said.
Senior Ashli Moore said the rushing of paperwork can put a hold on the event.
“Sometimes we would have to rush our paperwork in order to meet deadlines,” she said. “That’s when things go missing or forgot.”
Brokenborough believes that some staff members do not make it easy to have an event.
“There is always some type of hold up or non-approval from staff,” she said. “If there is a faculty event, they will prioritize it over a student organization.”
Students said they were disappointed they often can’t invite outside guests.
“Administration takes forever to file paperwork for an event and most of the time they do not allow outside guest to attend them,” liberal arts graduate Maya Shuler said. “Bringing guest to the school is what Wesley should want.”
Most students involved in organizations also complained that the services were too expensive.
“The school charges for their services, such as security and food (Aramark), which is too expensive for some organizations who don’t have much of a budget,” Shuler said.
“Before we can purchase items for our events, we must consider what the school has to offer, which usually is double the price of what things actually cost,” Moore said.
Security isn’t cheap, either.
“Security is really expensive,” senior Lexus Commodore said. “Although we want them to get paid for doing their jobs the price per guard is absurd.”
But many discussions of low involvement come back to the students.
“Students are just not interested,” Adjei said. “Students here are not enthusiastic and happy about Wesley. There is no Wesley spirit among the students.”
Getting involved must start with the student.
“Students themselves have to really want to be involved,” Mark Berry said. “Granted they may have had many different experiences here, but they have to be willing to rise above and know that things will get better.”
Former student Thomesse Baylor said it starts with unity.
“When I attended Wesley there was no unity between the students and workers of the college,” she said. “No one has ever taken the initiative to ask students what they want.”
At least one staff member said reaching out to professors before or after classes to promote their events will encourage everyone to come out.
“Try reaching out to faculty and staff and seeing if you could promote your events for a couple minutes before they start teaching their classes,” Callwood said. “Faculty and staff could also spread the word about certain events.”
Mark Berry agreed.
“It wouldn’t hurt to try reaching out to professors a few minutes before or after as long as you get the word it your job is done,” he said.
Publicizing events is a job for student affairs, Mask said.
“Teaching involves preparation, which includes on-going research in one’s field, classroom time, and a lot of time grading student work,” he said. “We have student affairs specialists who would seem to me to be the best people to work with to publicize club events.”