In a recent Q&A in The Galesburg Register-Mail, President Teresa Amott spelled out to local readers the college’s plan to grow its student body by 200 in the coming years. While the plan’s details in the past have been nebulous at best, it seems that most are on board with the general idea: increasing enrollment as a means to promote the financial stability of the college.
But administrators should take great caution to not lose sight of the immediate concerns being expressed by students on a daily basis. After all, the college cannot sell itself to an ever-competitive pool of prospective students if current students feel that their more basic expectations aren’t being met — and if they, in turn, become less enthusiastic about the school.
As Amott stated in the Register-Mail, the growth initiative is embedded in the “Knox 2018” strategic planning process, which will essentially produce an elaborate fundraising tool for the college. Its end goal is “to develop new educational programs, modernize our facilities and infrastructure, provide transformational opportunities for our students, and broaden our outreach and involvement with parents, alumni and the Galesburg community.”
But as TKS reported last term, student attendance at Knox 2018 forums was downright dismal. We, as current Knox students, don’t think in the flowery abstractions that make for good fundraising material. Rather, Knox students are fighting for the basics — the fundamental student services and support we deserve from a college that will charge just under $50,000 for tuition, room and board next year.
Certainly, the college’s financial sustainability is always an important concern. And though we would like to see more specifics about the growth initiative (e.g., how the college will prioritize departments when adding and hiring new full-time faculty positions as the student body grows), we can’t lose sight of current students’ concerns.
During this week alone, Knox has seen student-initiated forums on diversity issues at Knox, serving largely to continue the “I am…” T-shirt initiative. On Monday, a group of students directly addressed the faculty and administrators about the dangers of considering every college employee a mandated reporter of sexual assault.
In light of these concerns (and plenty of others), the college must find a way to prioritize these against the long-term goals identified in the Knox 2018 plan. While we appreciate the plan (which, according to Amott, is expected to raise upwards of $100 million for new buildings and “transformational opportunities”), Knox doesn’t have the luxury of waiting until 2018 to address student concerns about issues that threaten basic safety and security.
A big first step in the right direction would be hiring a Title IX coordinator solely for that position, instead of bestowing the title upon Associate Dean Lori Schroeder, who is already a full-time academic administrator. Judging by the steady stream of new sexual assault and misconduct reports this year, it is clear that the problem would be best approached with a full-time staff member completely devoted to the coordinator position.
So before we get too caught up in Knox 2018, let’s be sure not to forget about Knox 2014.