College - It's Not Always Going To Be a Feel-Good Experience

Somehow, a lot of people at my college just aren't feeling valued. That's what the surveys show, anyway.

About a year ago, administrators decided to check on how groups of students at Metropolitan State College of Denver interact. They asked 859 students whether they feel valued by the school. Only 59 percent said they did.

Metro is a commuter campus in downtown Denver with 17,600 students. Most students here have a job, family, or other commitments outside of school. (I hold down two jobs and attend school part time.) Ethnic minorities make up 23 percent of students.

While discrimination isn't a highly visible problem at Metro, the college conducted the survey to gauge the climate of race and gender relations on campus.

"We wanted to see what kinds of programs we had to implement to make this a conducive environment for work and learning," Metro's director of Equal Opportunity, Percy Morehouse, told me at the time.

About half of black students feel valued, the survey shows, compared with 61 percent of whites. Females feel more valued than males. Students taking only one class feel more valued than those who take several classes. And so on.

Now, in response to the findings, the people who came up with this Campus Climate Survey are asking for suggestions on how the college can make students feel more valued.

Fair enough. Here are my suggestions:

I would feel more valued if my professors would order textbooks in time for me to buy them and be prepared for class. As it is, students often wait weeks after classes start until texts are available in the bookstore.

Speaking of preparedness, it would be nice if my professors were prepared for class more often themselves. Students can tell when they speak off the top of their heads. It's insulting.

I would feel more valued if professors would put a stop to students taking cell-phone calls during a lecture. It's disruptive, obviously, and I'm surprised at how many professors allow it.

I would feel more valued if the college would schedule my classes in rooms that can accommodate all the students. Being packed in a room and waiting three weeks of the semester for enough students to drop so everybody has a desk doesn't communicate a sense of value.

Speaking of desks, it would be nice to sit in one large enough for adults, rather than children. That would make me feel more valued.

Those things would be nice; they would make Metro a more comfortable and efficient place to learn. The truth is, though, I don't need to feel more valued.

It's noble to build an environment where people can learn and work unhindered, but asking students whether they feel "valued" misses the point. Attending college shouldn't be an exercise in building self-esteem Students come to Metro to get the skills they need for success in a career, not for therapy.

Presumably, the school simply wants to cover its bases on diversity by making every effort to fight discrimination against minorities. That's an admirable goal, but the way to achieve it is not by introducing new programs.

If Metro wants students to feel more valued, it should focus on the function it was designed for: teaching. Education naturally results in a basic sense of self-worth and, one hopes, is a deterrent to discrimination.

So teach me, treat me with respect, and let me get out of here. That's all the value I need.

* Perry Swanson is a 23-year-old journalism major in his third year at Metro. He edits Metro's weekly student newspaper, The Metropolitan.

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