Editorial: Breaking away from small-school culture at Rowan

When trying to report the results from the recent Student Government Association presidential election, The Whit ran into an interesting dilemma: SGA did not feel comfortable giving out the information. Current SGA President Surbhi Pathak provided the vote percentage of the winner — Joe Chen took 47 percent of the votes — but didn’t want to give out the percentages for the other two candidates or the total number of votes submitted for the election.

The Whit strives to be a watchdog for Rowan’s students, faculty and staff. Because of this, The Whit tried to and succeeded in obtaining the vote totals from the presidential election. An email from SGA Election Commissioner Drew Magierski was forwarded to The Whit by an anonymous source within SGA. It revealed that only 574 total votes were casted in the election, with Chen receiving 274 votes.

Total enrollment at Rowan for the 2012-13 academic year was 13,349 students, according to Rowan’s website. Assuming this year’s enrollment total is close to that (it’s probably more), then less than five percent of the student body participated in the election — and only two percent voted for the next SGA president. Keep in mind that the SGA president receives free tuition for the year, which is paid for out of student fees.

The results of this election shed light on a larger problem here at Rowan. Our athletes play in front of half-filled bleachers. Our artists, actors and performers hardly receive the recognition they deserve from fellow students. Even Profstock, an event that gave students an opportunity to see big-name musicians for only $10, sold just over half of its tickets.

For one reason or another, there is a lack of student participation at Rowan. There is, of course, the stereotype of the apathetic youth, which these prior examples feed into. People our age aren’t supposed to care, right? Yet that doesn’t truly capture the problem here at Rowan. Who hasn’t seen the sold-out stadiums at Rutgers or Penn State? Talk about a lot of apathetic youths.

Granted, those universities are what many would consider “big schools.” But Rowan is on its way. The efforts of our administration to grow our school and its reputation have been well-documented, with Rowan recently being designated as a research university. This week’s passing of former Rowan President Dr. Mark Chamberlain has shed some light on how far Rowan has come. When he took over as president in 1968, total enrollment was about 3,500 students. Now there are over 13,000 registered students, and our current president, Dr. Ali Houshmand, has his sights set on enrolling 25,000 students in ten years’ time.

Despite the efforts of our administration, faculty and staff, Rowan will ultimately be as successful as its students allow it to be. Rowan can build all the academic and housing buildings it wants, but if the student body fails to change the small-school culture on this campus, then Rowan will still be considered a “small school.”

There will undoubtedly be some students who will read this and ask, “What’s in it for me?” Why should students take the extra effort to go to a football game or join an on-campus organization, when they can put in just enough effort in class to skate by with a degree?

This awful (yet still popular) attitude not only holds our school back, but also holds the students who have that attitude back. The Whit, for example, has made great strides in campus coverage this year. There are many reasons for this, but the big one is this: we have a lot more dedicated members. By taking the extra effort to participate in something campus-related, our staff members have not only helped Rowan, but have helped themselves, too. We have student writers who, using clips from The Whit, have been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the South Jersey Times and The Daily Journal, among other publications. Not bad for a bunch of kids from a “small school.”

So the next time you receive that Rowan Announcer at midnight, take a second to look at it before you delete it. You might find something important or interesting in that laundry list of information. You might realize this isn’t such a small school after all, that there are plenty of events scheduled on campus.

The only thing missing is the students.

For comments/questions about this story, email editor@thewhitonline.com or @thewhitonline.

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