College is revered as a time of self-identification, where young adults can figure out who they are, what they want to do, and how they are going to do it. Students suddenly gain the freedom to shape their future. There aren’t many other times in life where there is an easy excuse to begin anew.
It takes considerable amounts of work to begin going to school here, and some students live hundreds or thousands of miles away from their home. Naturally, Mines has an interest in ensuring that these students easily adapt, but the way the school approaches this transition is not in the best interest of students arriving here each fall.
Mines has built an extensive network to assist students in adjusting, but what they are experiencing is literally a glorified babysitting service for freshmen. Each floor of every residence hall on campus has at least one resident assistant, in addition to hall directors and residence life coordinators, that all work to supervise students every day and night of the school year.
I understand that there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes for residence life to be successful, but the way freshmen are treated is wrong on a basic level as it actively stifles the potential for student growth. There is a serious disconnect between what RA’s think they do, what they actually do, and how many students see what they do. Even if RA’s worked to the full capacity of their job description, residence life fails to fulfill its purpose because constant supervision is simply not an appropriate way to help teenagers become adults.
If a student can’t make decent decisions on their own, then they will quickly learn from the consequences. Mistakes, and how they are handled, provide the most powerful opportunities for growth as a person. Not every mistake can be prevented, but more importantly, you can’t be afraid to make them. This artificial safety net freshmen are caught in prevents the very college experience that everyone benefits from.
There is little accountability to ensure that the expectations of residence life aligns with what their purpose is and what students pay for. Resident assistants are being compensated for acting like an authority figure and, in some cases, acting like friends born out of convenience. It is easy enough for somebody to roam the halls at night and unlock people’s doors.
College is becoming simply an extension of high school. Students are being led every step of the way through their education via unnecessary and undesired services. Higher education is not magically becoming more affordable, and students are being forced to shoulder the cost for all of these staff members regardless of benefits they receive.
If Mines wants to seriously commit to assisting students with the transition to college, there are more effective ways of building communities. Money can be spent more responsibly to enrich students’ education and lives for the duration of their college career.
Freshman Success Seminar already exists to foster a group of students under the guidance of a faculty member and peer mentors. Most of the freshman, however, see it only as a half-credit “A.” This is due to severe limitations placed on the scope of the program.
Providing legitimate funding for CSM 101 would remove these restrictions and create experiences unique to each group of students, transforming it into a program of their own. Peer mentors and faculty members should be able to teach what matters to them on this campus. Actual lessons could be taught rather than gibberish designed to make the school appear better to potential students and their parents.
Mines should reinforce the idea that students are responsible for forging their own memories during college, and respect their ability to do so, without constant supervision.