Morning to you, Monks,
Yesterday was a beautiful day on campus!
It was made all the better because it was the first time we gathered our Orientation Leaders (OL’s) together for training. I made it about halfway through my opening remarks to these students, all dutifully masked, sufficiently spaced, under the outdoor tent on Mercy Lawn – and then realized, for the 100th time – this year is going to be different.
I’ve discussed, both in a virtual summer orientation series for parents and families, in campus email to students, various forums with faculty and staff, the particulars of our pandemic response. What we’ll be doing, and why, and how we’ll respond to certain situations.
Just yesterday I was asked by some students at lunch how I’d respond to other students who host large off-campus parties, which sounds like something we really shouldn’t be doing. That’s a good question. Maybe we should address those types of scenarios and expectations for our students, on and off-campus.
See, it’s easy to get lost in pandemic preparation, and lose sight of what has never changed in terms of the College’s expectations. So, that’s the topic for today – the two-way street of what the College expects for you (students) and what you can expect from the College.
I’ve always seen it this way, actually. Students are investing a lot of their own time, resources, and trust in a College who is committed to developing the whole person, for their time on campus, and beyond. Just last week, I had dinner out with a friend, and we went to a restaurant owned by a Saint Joe’s alum. I had never met him before, but how he spoke about his connections, friendships, and experiences on campus were genuine and positive.
In no particular order, here’s what we expect (I love when people say that, incidentally, because obviously there’s a priority, it’s the order in which these popped in my brain!)
- A community free from violence. It sounds easy enough, right? It should be, but unfortunately, Saint Joe’s is not unlike other colleges and universities across the country. We have violence in our community, we have harassment, stalking, bullying, and assault. If students are fearful, it makes it difficult for them to learn and grow. It takes all of us to stop violence, in all its forms, on campus. As my friend Sarah Gordon reminds me, a good policy helps to guide us when something happens…..but good action is even better – we can stop bad things from happening. That’s what Green Dot training is all about, and why we offer opportunities for students to be Green Dots on campus.
- An honest community. Honesty, and its close cousin, truth, is at the heart of our academic and non-academic experience. An academic experience at Saint Joe’s is rooted in the pursuit and exploration of the truth. That’s what being a liberal-arts College is (partly) all about. Knowing the difference between group work and copying, giving credit through citation. Cheating. Being honest with our academic efforts is required stuff.
- The College expects change. Change can be a messy, zesty enterprise. Messy because, well, the status quo – the baseline – never wants to change in the first place. It’s easier, and we’ve evolved for things to be as easy as possible. Look at the bicycle, the model of efficiency. Or fire, which helped us digest food faster, growing our brains so we could sit around and play Madden. But still. You should be changed, augmented, going out than you were when you first came to us. I think that alum at the restaurant would admit he changed during his time at Saint Joe’s.
And, super quick, because I’m already over my limit this morning, here’s what you can expect from the College:
- College is a great place to make mistakes. Sure, there are some mistakes that are serious, which require a timeout. But on the whole, whether it’s failing a class, having a bad athletic game, or just an interaction that causes us to think, “ok, I’ll never do that again.” Hopefully, you make a bunch of mistakes. You should expect the College to be a place that acknowledges that as fundamental to the learning process. It doesn’t always mean you get a pass for breaking the rules (I’m looking at you, would-be off-campus party hosters) but it means that we expect those types of things to happen.
- You should expect respect. Not only is it a core value of the College, but it’s fundamental for any relationship – and that’s what you have with the College. Every person, every student, has a job to do at the College, equally important in their contribution to our shared goal. You should feel respected by every person on campus, even in those times of adversity and change. Things can be messy, we can disagree with one another, we may not always get what we want – but we always deserve respect.
- Lastly (for real) – you should expect to be supported. As I’ve mentioned in several other posts, College is a time for challenge. But it’s also a place for you to be supported. Whether it’s about your physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, or academic support, you should expect the College to have dedicated resources to help you through those tough times. Because we all have them. And if we expect them, and require them, to happen, as I’ve stated above (a little Socratic deduction this morning) we’re also going to be there for you when you need help.
Less than a week to go! Go have yourselves a great day, everyone. Back tomorrow.
Matt Goodwin is the Dean of Students at Saint Joseph’s College.
Along with a team of challenging and supportive Campus Life professionals in the areas of Student Engagement & Residential Living, Counseling Center, Health & Wellness Center, Campus Safety, and the Mercy Center, Campus Life supports students’ holistic personal development, learning, and empowerment in service to a global community.