Campus hot takes on the retention rate
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Campus hot takes on the retention rate

In spring 2017, President Donal O’Shea announced a plan to grow New College by 50 percent to 1,200 students by 2023. Administration plans to increase the size of the student body by curbing retention, a perpetual institutional struggle. Here are some thoughts from students, alumni, faculty and staff on the issue.

Research, Instruction and Information Literacy Librarian Helene Gold

“As a member of the [Quality Enhancement Plan] QEP team, I’m very hopeful that our new First Year Seminar will provide new students with opportunities that will not only support their academic success, but will also help in navigating the academic program overall. I am optimistic that this seminar (along with other QEP initiatives) will positively impact retention.”

Center for Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) Assistant Director Lisandra Jimenez

“A big piece of retention and persistence is students feeling like they’re supported while they’re in their college journey, and that students do feel like there’s adequate amount of resources available to them and they are supported along their path. [The CEO] tries to do some programs to try to get [students] to see that we are here to support them and be a network for them as well in a more casual setting.”

Social Sciences Division Chair and Professor of Economics Richard Coe

“I don’t think it’s a welcoming or fun campus. I have students tell me that there is an overbearing police presence and that socially there’s virtually nothing to do on campus. There’s complaints about housing and the mold and the Forum, but what strikes me the most is that there’s not that many fun social activities. [Campus] used to be pretty laid back and parties were fun. Students had a good time, the police knew the students and were discreet about their enforcement policies and weren’t hassling them over having a beer or smoking a joint…And I’ve been told and have confirmed with administrators that there’s 11 uniformed police at what they call [Center of the Universe Parties] COUPs now and that just seems like an overbearing presence.”

Second-year Michelle Voight

“You’re really independent here. You can have an advisor who will meet with you every week, but really you’re on your own. I think that’s hard for a lot of people because when you’re going through a problem, you’re struggling in your classes or a traumatic event happens, then you’re handling all this shit on your own. And I think that led to a lot of people not wanting to come back.”

First-year Jamie Christos

“In our first year at New College, we have witnessed firsthand the ways in which the New College administration has blatantly undervalued issues that students have raised. Decisions regarding the modifications to the Jane Bancroft Cook Library, Four Winds and, more recently, Graduation [Palm Court Party] PCP have left many students dissatisfied—we feel as though our concerns often go unheard. To keep students invested in the school, their opinions should be considered and addressed in every situation. Especially given that we are such a small school, there is no reason for student concerns to be swept under the carpet.

Honestly, when we heard about the latest admissions scandal, our first thought was, ‘What the fuck?’ It comes down to this: If you want Gen Z students (ourselves and future students) to stay on campus, you can’t promote diversity and inclusion and then enact systemic discrimination against students that make up the majority of the campus population. Most people come to New [College] under the impression that they will be considered without regard to their disabilities and/or their identities. Hearing that the Admissions office was flagging applicants that would have otherwise been automatically admitted just reinforces the fact that their commitment to diversity and inclusion is simply a marketing scheme. As a historically primarily white institution (PWI), we’re not surprised.”

Thesis student and Resident Advisor (RA) Jennifer Ha

“The Student [Affairs] department tries to focus a lot on student retention. Res Life, when were were applying to be an RA, was like, ‘Here on your slides I want you to find ways that we can help retention here at New College.’ So that’s what we have to base our interview proposals on. But I feel like it’s hard to make that big of a difference as a single RA. You want to build those connections with other people and make sure that they’re having a good time here and that they come back, but we don’t have enough manpower to do that.”

Second-year Joey Daniels

“It’s important to create an environment where everybody feels welcome and everybody feels like they’re at the right place for them, and I think the responsibility for that falls on administration and the students.”

Alum Joy Feagan (‘12)

“Even though students love to talk about how administration is trying to make this school less and less weird and more and more mainstream, which is totally true, I still think that this school is so much weirder than other places and administration doesn’t accurately advertise that because they want to attract more mainstream students. But when those mainstream students get here, they still get freaked out by how weird it is and a lot of them dip. Because even though it’s not as weird as it used to be, it’s still pretty fucking weird.”

Thesis student Myles Rodriguez

“I think retention ponds are important because they make good use of rainwater.”

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