By Andy Klein
It has recently come to my attention that there are plans to make Wimmer Hall exclusive housing for Saint Vincent College honors students. I believe that this proposal would be a mistake. I believe this due to the extreme opposition to such a move from the student body; due to the complications this would impose upon honors students rooming with larger groups of roommates; and because this further isolates the on-campus community from the honors commuters.
By and large, the most significant reason I believe that this idea should not go forward is that it is against the spirit of a liberal arts school. While the fall and spring semesters have been in session, never more than a month goes by without me reading a Review article or an email talking about the core curriculum, and how it relates to Saint Vincent’s commitment to provide a well-rounded liberal arts education.
A person’s education does not simply terminate the moment they step foot outside of the traditional classroom. As many of my friends and acquaintances will attest, I often talk about the research I am performing for my senior project as a physics major. I have shown people around the physics lab, explained how the scintillators work to detect the subatomic particles that pass through the lead shielding of my project, explained what the origins of these subatomic particles called muons are, and so much more.
Most of these people have not taken a physics class, and likely never will. They’ve fulfilled their science credits, they simply don’t have enough time, or for whatever other reason they aren’t taking one. However, by being in proximity to my classmates, I have enriched their lives with some of what I’ve learned, even if I only talk to them occasionally. Many of these everyday intellectual enrichments take place because we live on the same floor.
The honors program is certainly not for everyone. I’ve talked to some of my fellow students who are in in the honors program and they have stated that the workload is intense. Plenty of others opt not to because their GPA just isn’t up to the bar, or because they rely on scholarships with stringent GPA requirements and do not want to risk what lets them attend classes here. And students of some majors, such as education, will have a very difficult time graduating in four years due to the workload that their major entails.
But the honors program is certainly enriching for students in the program and for the rest of the college. The honors program participants take classes that would otherwise be reserved for the majors in a field (due to the difficulty such classes pose) and dive deeper into the material than others would. Though I am not an honors student myself, I have the utmost respect for anyone willing to challenge themselves to such a degree. But most of my fellow classmates that have learned about muons from me would never have even heard of the topic if I wasn’t in their proximity this past semester.
Sequestering away the honors students would be a great injustice. No other students take such a large breadth and depth of classes. By pigeonholing these people into one building—the farthest one from all of the other dorms—the college would be depriving the rest of the campus of a valuable experience: the experience of learning from their peers, becoming curious and seeking out the knowledge that interests them on their own. Segregating the educational high-achievers from everyone else would deprive the student body of an opportunity to learn and to broaden their horizons.
I hope this decision will be reconsidered or, at the very least, delayed until the end of the next year. Saint Vincent students came here to experience the “SVC Community,” but between the lack of effort to include commuters, the lack of real dialogue about the concerns some of the student body has about the mental health of this campus, and now this proposal on honor student housing—it feels like there really isn’t any larger community here at all, and I am left wondering if there ever was one to begin with.
I implore the student body to voice their opinions on this issue to the college administration. The actions of the college in response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year have personally convinced me that there is a lack of a robust dialogue between students and administration. And it’s clear that we, as a community, need that. So please take this chance to voice your concerns.