Recently, I received an email addressed to Simpson College alumni outlining the next round of faculty layoffs and the end of several highly valued departments and majors.
Over the last few days, I have seen numerous posts, messages and emails and have heard conversations filled with nothing but hate and disgust for the college and all it stands for. Some have gone as far as to say they wish they never donated, supported or attended Simpson and wish ill on those in leadership positions.
Faculty, staff, past and future students and all those associated with Simpson have every right to be discouraged and emotional about the current and future state of the college. I do, however, believe that it is my right to shed a positive light on Simpson College by detailing my own experience in hopes that even a single person reading this will pause and reflect on what it truly means to be part of the Simpson family.
Two weeks into my freshman year of college, my dad passed away from cancer. As you can probably imagine, this was a very difficult time for me and my family. I had only just met my professors, classmates and roommate when all of this took place. Yet, the overwhelming amount of support I received is something I still often think about.
I will never forget how loved I felt when I saw then-Chaplain Fritz Wehrenberg and Dean Jim Thorius walk into my dad’s visitation and funeral; when I received an email from my SC professor, Jan Everhart, offering her condolences and telling me she would speak with my other professors and gather coursework for me; and when friends I had just met supported me when I returned to campus looking and feeling like nothing short of a train wreck.
Tracie Pavon from financial aid had also contacted my family about assisting with educational expenses for my first semester to help offset medical and funeral costs.
There were times throughout my career at Simpson that I still struggled. But the faculty and staff offered thousands of hours of their time to ensure I felt valued and respected as a student and person, while also demanding that I think critically and creatively to come up with solutions.
Some say these are all simply perks of a small college, but to me it was and is much more than that. In fact, at the time it felt like a miracle.
When I think of Simpson College, the words and phrases that immediately come to mind are special, life-changing and irreplaceable. I think that’s what makes dealing with the current state of the college that much harder for everyone involved, including myself.
We feel a sense of ourselves being stripped away, and in the heat of the moment, it seems as if all that we like about Simpson College is lost and that we must find someone to blame for the heartache.
I’d urge each of you to dig deeper than the superficial words that are so easy to voice on social media for some compassion and understanding. Not just for everyone who is a part of the Simpson family, but particularly for those having to make the gut-wrenching, emotional decisions to lay off faculty and staff and those who have lost their positions.
I’d also like to point out that it’s donors and supporters like you who afforded me the opportunity to attend a private college where I built diverse, lifelong personal and professional relationships and learned how to be thankful for all life has to offer and to always live in the moment.
I’d like to think that any gift, no matter how small, is going toward keeping a dream alive for a student who has had some tough breaks or is simply pursuing a career. Isn’t that why we all chose to pursue a liberal arts education in the first place? Isn’t that why we all chose Simpson College?
Please refrain from discrediting your own memories and contributions and those of others out of anger for the current situation. The memories and thoughts you hold about Simpson are still priceless.
Once I decided to return to classes after my dad’s passing, I remember my mom and extended family members hugging me, wishing me luck and saying they were incredibly thankful that Simpson was my destination of choice because of the people.
So please: Take a seat under a crimson maple tree and remember what brought us all together as a community in the first place.
Shelby Randolph is a 2016 graduate of Simpson College who is currently in her third and final year of a doctor of physical therapy program at Des Moines University.