The Davidsonian

On Davidson’s Priorities

By David Sowinski ’25 (he/they), Perspectives Editor

In recent months, students have questioned and confronted the College’s priorities as they relate to student life with increasing frequency. The Perspectives section of The Davidsonian has been one of several outlets whereby students have expressed vexation, confusion, anger—as well as demanded that their concerns be heeded. Namely, Anaya Patel ‘25, Samantha Ewing ‘23, and Mattie Baird ‘25 among numerous collaborators have written on issues surrounding increased presence of Campus Police, apparent lack of regard for student well-being, and the divisively-named Fagg Field. In keeping with Davidson’s purported virtue of student discourse, these publications have engendered responses and discussions among students—something also evident in Perspectives with Drew Patterson’s ‘24 follow-up to Patel’s coverage of the September 29 protest of the DCI. While student discourse is valuable in its own right, it will not meet students’ expressed needs.

As tensions have arisen between student leaders and the administrators subject to their challenges, some members of the College faculty and staff have contributed their voices. They have lent wisdom, offered suggestions and support, and some have endeavored to meet students where they are in efforts to relieve said tensions. While valued and appreciated, such efforts are disjointed and largely passive due to the greater administration’s failure to comprehensively address student grievances. For every professor or organization leader who engages with students in earnest, there are those who dismiss, diminish, and patronize. It should be the obligation of all faculty and staff members to elevate student voices, especially when they detail ways in which they have been let down and can be better supported.

I offer yet another area in which questions to Davidson’s priorities should be raised: academics. Currently in my third semester, I have taken precious few classes that I would recommend to others or choose to take again myself, given hindsight. That is not to say that I regret taking all those besides: not all have been bad experiences, per se, but all have left me with the unfortunate feeling of not having learned anything worthwhile. Of course, passing a class entails knowing enough of the material designated to be learned; though, I propose a perhaps more romantic definition of learning. When, as a professor lectures, I make conjectures and think on ways I might apply the knowledge to various areas of my life, I learn. Even when I often inevitably forget the facts of that knowledge, I retain the influence it had on my ways of thinking, and I may more ably navigate academia and life. For the greater portion of my academic experience at Davidson, I have not learned in this way, but rather according to the first definition, wherein I force myself to know material only for it to leave my mind with no trace of its having been there. Moreover, my work ethic in such classes suffers as a result, which is poor luck as they typically assign far more homework than classes I do learn in. Responsibility for this issue falls variably on the student, the instructor, and the curricular parameters established by the College. While oftentimes no party is blameless, the degrees of subordination between them ultimately place the onus on the administration to cultivate long-lasting change. While college has been an enriching experience thus far—and I expect it will continue to be—I wish I took more away from classes. Davidson should consider what its true aim is with regard to academic life, and whether it is rigorous for the sake of education or prestige.

As I have seemingly lambasted the administration of the College, I must clarify that I do not hold any leadership positions within the organizations that have challenged it of late. While, for this reason, I might be deemed unqualified to write as such, I merely attempt with this piece to paint a picture of the sentiment I am surrounded by this semester. These past months have been permeated with frustration and exhaustion: obstacles student advocates must overcome in addition to the injustices they tirelessly combat. My work as editor has shown me one theater of their fight, and I would take heart if I saw from collective administrators some measure of commitment at least equal to that of the students I’ve worked with. It may be true that the administration is planning to mount an interdepartmental initiative to address student concerns, or something of the like—but, as no such intention has been communicated to the student body, there is little room for positive attitude in those for whom the College has failed to ensure a sense of security and belonging. If committed action is not taken to repair the souring relationship between students and administration, chronic discontent will relegate the merits of this institution to aspirations rather than realities. Numerous students have published, emailed, demonstrated. Excuses and flimsy promises on behalf of the administration no longer suffice.

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