Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We Will Change DePaul

It was really hard to deny. The offer was right in front of me. I was check-marking my
graduation petition and then it asked me:

"Are you interested in delivering a commencement speech?"

Visions of all the greats flashed before me. I remembered when Bill Clinton spoke on his '96 Campaign trail, "Bridges to the 21st Century" to a swarming mass of suburbanites. It was my high school, and I suddenly adored the art of oration. I would catch myself watching commencement speeches on C-Span on Saturday afternoons, long before I decided to transfer to DePaul, wondering if I might ever graduate from Stanford or Wellesley just for the chance to hear Queen Noor or Bill Gates wish me well and see me off into a prosperous future.

So I did decide against speaking at graduation. Making a public mockery of this institution is the least tactful approach to changing DePaul.

Last week, I overheard a conversation about our University's finances and who might benefit more than others in the payroll department. I've been fixated for months at what I consider fraudulent; the inflation of study abroad program fees, which are being sucked up the line through Liberal Arts and Sciences,... all the way up to the President and Provost of our Vincentian academy. I interjected to the effect of, "so that's where my excess $7,000 study abroad fees went?"

And then those who shall remain nameless told me to take my frustrations to the top. Faculty may be ignored, but we, the students, pay them, the administrators. They make choices impacting our happiness. They decide DePaul needs another state-of-the-art loop facility. Vision 2012 is its own stimulus package, using our tuition dollars for future students.

Is St. Vincent's mission is possible anymore? In the same vain that the US disqualifies itself from socialism due to size and diversity, can DePaul continue to pledge itself in St. Vincent's name? Part of the "Vincentian" appeal is that it sidesteps the tensions of Christianity for a multi-denominational community. It's nice to subscribe to a clearer, uncontroversial view of public service such as St. Vincent's. I'd just like to know if it's real, since he was.

Marrying the outreach to students of lesser means with an overall community outreach is our school's mantra. With so many struggling, perhaps for the first time in their life, to manage themselves financially, there is some hope here. Additional funds are available to those on Stafford loans this year to the tune of up to $2,000. You can apply for these funds and receive them within two weeks. DePaul Central is nice enough to facilitate this for some, but has lied to others about their eligibility.

Here's a first suggestion, DePaul Central. Are you a collection agency, or a university's financial advisory? Shouldn't you be on the same page? Shouldn't your employees be able to
answer my questions, especially if I've done my end of the research and show up prepared to do business?

Here's my suggestion to you. The Graduating Classes of 2009, 10, 11, and 12. We rate the university to our benefit. We don't wait for the College Board to announce we are no longer the happiest students in the nation. First, we respond to the surveys they are e-mailing us.

Next, we perform an intervention, St. Vincent style.

Reflect on your own experience at DePaul. It won't take you long, because you all have some story on the tip of your tongue at all times. What's your best rant, in 100 words or fewer than? How Vincentian has the University behaved? Has it fulfilled your prospective student expectations? What can they do to improve it? What can we do?

I will circulate the link to our blog on Facebook, and I hope you take the time to say what you think.

When this is done, I will present a proposal to our top administrators. DePaul's President says he admires our country's President because he asked questions about college students' issues. Let us see Our Father's reactions. Speak up.

1 comment:

  1. Molly,

    Wow - your post definitely hit on a lot of things I have been feeling lately. I am part of the Vincentian Mission Fellows program - it is a group of 9 seniors, all in different fields. We applied for the program as sophomores, under the pretense that we would engage in a few things: two trips to expand our Vincentian knowledge: one to Paris (March 2008) and one to Los Angeles (March 2009.) We also took two classes to further enrich our knowledge - one last winter on Vincentian history, and one this quarter on Vincentian spirituality and how to incorporate it into our lives. We talk a lot in our spirituality class about how we don't really see St. Vincent's spirit at DePaul - it seems like few students really understand the mission or how it impacts them. We have come up with a few ideas - making a Vincentian class a requirement, or putting a quote from St. Vincent on all ID cards.

    What are your ideas for making us a more Vincentian campus?