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McKendree University does not care about you. This is not an obfuscated statement I am making about the theoretical entity that is McKendree University. This is a statement about the clear lack of care for the students, the faculty, and the campus itself (excepting the lawn of course, which is mowed daily). It has become apparent in the past years that the priorities of this “institute of higher learning” have shifted to that of a corporation as opposed to a university. From the recent hiring of a member of the board to the seat of the presidency in defiance of the logic behind the hiring of a presidential search committee to the derelict state of the buildings on campus and the race to the bottom that is the endless expansion of sports teams, the university’s priorities clearly lie outside of students well-being.
I would like to begin with the new president of the university. And to begin with that we must address the issue of the current president, one who will be going on sabbatical in the spring. A sabbatical is typically defined as “a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel.” If the president is going on sabbatical then why is he not returning? A sabbatical necessarily includes the condition that one is being paid and is “on leave.” What logic lies in continuing to pay the nearly $500,000, according to McKendree’s 501c3 form viewable by the public, salary that we pay the president so that he may leave the university early on a leave which he is necessarily not going to be returning from? Additionally, with all the current budget cuts, how on earth is McKendree prepared to pay two presidents in the spring?
At the heart of this process lies the “presidential search committee” which was allegedly searching for a “dynamic leader with the ability to chart a powerful and compelling vision for the future that leverages the University’s deep commitment to student success and further strengthens McKendree’s mission to provide a high-quality educational experience.” We will return to some of the more ludicrous statements from this quote later but for now the question of what was the point of this committee must be raised.
The new president is a McKendree graduate. This is not necessarily a bad thing and really should not factor into any assessment of qualifications. Yet, this new president is also a member of the board and has been for 32 years. So, if McKendree really wanted to change things and “chart a powerful and compelling vision” then why have they hired someone who was already, at least partially, responsible for the course the university was already on? And if they were not a part of this prior charted course then why were they on the board in the first place? Daniel Dobbins, the new president, graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1981. He is currently the president of Fiber Bond Corp., a manufacturer of air filtration systems for commercial use in major corporations and hospitals, in Michigan City, Indiana. A position which, at least to my limited frame of knowledge, sounds more like one that heads up corporation than one that leads a university with a “deep commitment to student success.”
I now turn my attention to this alleged commitment and the statements in the presidential search committee email, which we all received, that I called ludicrous. Does a university which has very limited handicap access sound like one that has a “deep commitment to student success?” Would a university with “a powerful and compelling vision for the future that leverages the university’s deep commitment to student success” cancel classes which are required for students’ degrees and are only offered every two years because not enough students had signed up for the class? Would they then dock payments of professors who teach these classes out of the goodness of their hearts so that their students may actually be able to graduate on time? In my view of the world this supposed university surely would not do these things.
This supposed university would also, surely, guarantee access to things like heat in the winter, water for showers, access to digital libraries like JSTOR, and, of course, buildings which are up to date. Yet, McKendree does not fulfill these standards. In my four years here, multiple dormitories have been freezing in the winter, multiple buildings require students to wear coats inside so as to not shiver, and infrastructure issues have caused water pipes to burst in the older dormitories. Students have only limited access to resources such as JSTOR to complete research. This does not even cover issues revolving around class scheduling and cancellation which have personally affected mine and others’ ability to complete their degree without having to jump through the hoops of directed studies or restructuring their degrees.
For a university that supposedly is seeking out “a powerful and compelling vision for the future that leverages the University’s deep commitment to student success,” they sure could have fooled me.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly mentioned student access to JSTOR, which is limited but available.
Featured image from McKendree University