My name is Victoria. I’m a senior here at Slippery Rock and I love this place as much as my own home, and because of that, I try to give back to SRU in the ways that I can. One of those ways is looking out for future SRU students, which is why I made a point to attend all three student sessions for the SRU presidential candidates. I discussed with other students who were frustrated with the applicants, including my peers on The Rocket staff. We covered the story while also releasing an editorial on our own thoughts: that the SRU community and students deserve better than the applicants presented to us. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed a lot about all three of the finalists and felt as though they all had something to bring to the SRU community, but I kept thinking about other applicants who might be even more qualified. To be blunt: I thought we could do better, and I say that having respect for what all three candidates brought to the table, specifically Dr. Mohammadi, whose work I have been able to see the fruits of for almost four years now.
When we published these opinions and when we heard other students voice their opinions, specifically through student government, we saw a disturbing pattern: if members of the search committee or COT (as well as other engaged members of the SRU community) agreed with us, they praised the importance of the students’ voices. They included us in conversations and encouraged us to become more and more invested, to fight against the injustice of their opponents. When they did not, however, the students were accused of being manipulated by administrators, trustees and committee members. Fake Facebook accounts were created to comment on letters to the editors and coverage of the search, accusing The Rocket of only publishing select pieces of information. Invested community members including faculty and trustees told us it was such a shame students couldn’t see how they were being manipulated by the opposition. Anonymous letters were sent trying to reveal secret agendas, as if the sender didn’t have an agenda of their own.
I want to make one thing clear: the students of Slippery Rock University are not stupid. We are not children to be used as pawns in a game of chess. We are smart, engaged, and most importantly, we are the group with the most invested in this university.
If you, as a trustee, as an administrator, as a faculty member or as a staff member think that we as students, whether that be as representatives of student media or as a part of student government, are honestly dumb enough not to see what is going on, then you clearly don’t believe in the world-class education we are being given here at SRU. During the myriad of experiences I have been privileged enough to have at SRU (including working at The Rocket and being a part of student government), I have sharpened my skills of critical thinking, mitigation, rhetorical analysis and more. So have my peers.
If you don’t believe that SRU is preparing students for hard conversations like this one, then don’t you dare claim to represent this university and the best interests of its students. And if you do believe that SRU is creating responsible world citizens, try listening to what we are saying rather than trying to twist it for your own agenda.
During the special Council of Trustees meeting, an amended motion was proposed to include a second student in the search. The amendment failed after discussion over concern over the way in which a student would be elected or appointed. One trustee seemed to suggest that a second student was unnecessary since all of the members of the committee should have the students’ best interests at heart. Another looked around the room as if to gauge which student would best serve his agenda. Bear in mind this was after SRU APSCUF President Ben Shaevitz had advocated for more student positions and in direct opposition with the fact that over 15 students had shown up at 8:30 a.m. to this meeting, clearly indicating interest in this conversation. This leads me back to the reason I am writing this, to the request I have for those involved in this search and the ones to follow: listen to students. Believe them when they say they know what they’re talking about. Believe that they are speaking or writing not because they have been manipulated but because they have an earnest desire to do what is right for this university. Trust in your students and you will be amazed at how much we have to say.
So when you see an opinion piece from a student in The Rocket, read it. When a student representative tells you what they think is best for SRU students, take them at their word. If you fear the power of student government, it means they are doing their job. If you fear the power of student media, it means they are doing their job.
Listen to us. We probably have something important to say.