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Editorial: Help them help you

By
Monday, March 16, 2015

On March 3, Dean of the College Maud Mandel and Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn sent all enrolled students an email with a link to the Enrolled Student Survey, designed by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education. The administration sends students numerous emails, often very long summaries of news from Corporation meetings, or messages about new committees from the Provost’s Office. These emails help update the student body on what is happening behind the scenes at Brown and inform the community about what the administration and the Corporation are doing, which is often removed from the public eye.

Particularly in the past year, students have demanded greater transparency from the administration and rightly so. Subjects such as the Ray Kelly protest, the debate on whether to divest the University’s endowment from coal and the critical issue of sexual assault have illuminated the need for better communication among different parts of the University. The Enrolled Student Survey is a positive and productive step to strengthen this relationship.

The survey asks students to answer questions about their academic development, social lives and overall well-being as students at Brown. In a follow-up email on March 13, Mary Heather Smith, senior institutional research analyst, urged students to participate, asking, “What is going well? What could use some help?” While surveys are sent to students on a regular basis, they are often meant to gauge students’ support for topics including sustainability efforts on campus, designs for future campus development or postgraduate plans. While such questionnaires do try to capture student interest, what sets apart the Enrolled Students Survey from the others is its highly personal nature.

The release of the Enrolled Students Survey should not be limited to every four years, even if they feel more data would not be helpful. What the survey shows is a tangible interest from the administration in the well-being of students — something that does not always come across, particularly as of late. It is baffling that despite numerous resources considered to be available to students, many at Brown still feel isolated and adrift and cannot get the help that they need to feel comfortable and to thrive on College Hill. For example, Counseling and Psychological Services offers appointments with a psychiatrist, but the obstacles — both financial and bureaucratic — discourage many from requesting this type of assistance. Yes, these resources are available to students, but a student might not know about them or know how to approach such a situation without guidance. Faculty members and administrators could extend a hand to those who need it by involving themselves more in the student body, because life at Brown is not always easy or pleasant. Every student should be able to create lasting relationships with professors, be asked about their post-graduation plans and feel mentally and physically healthy in an academic environment as rigorous as Brown’s.

To students who are overwhelmed with the number of emails they receive each day — try to take the survey before it closes on March 25. If the administration is encouraging the student body to share experiences with their peers, professors and advisors at Brown, students should encourage more questionnaires like this one.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Mathias Heller ’15 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

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