I love Simpson College. I mean I really, really love Simpson College.
The admissions office should probably highlight me in one of those fancy newsletters they send to alums or cast me in a commercial.
Although my love for Simpson began on my first campus visit, each day I engage in class discussion, attend a forum event or eat lunch with a faculty member, I am reminded of how much I’ve received over the course of the last four years and how prepared I am for what is to come after graduation.
Sadly, I am aware that not every student on campus shares my enthusiasm.
As most of the student body knows, Simpson is undergoing some difficult times. Budget cuts, layoffs and a detrimental retention rate only top the list.
With fewer students coming in and more transferring out, the number of students paying tuition dictates many of Simpson’s financial issues. Though I am not in a position to comment on the budget or the decision to let several faculty members go, as I look at students deciding that Simpson is not for them, I am often left dumbfounded.
My adoration and devotion to Simpson is not some glamorous, courtly obsession. I understand that there are improvements that could be made (I dislike Pfeiffer just as much as the next person).
Still, as I listen to some of the criticism regarding the curriculum or administration, I cannot help but think—get over yourself.
As a former Destination Leader I have seen the firsthand decisions of students deciding to leave Simpson for a different college. Although there are appropriate reasons to transfer (perhaps Simpson does not offer your desired major), I am beginning to wonder how much say Simpson has in their own retention rate or whether there is another culprit—the students.
I have heard every critique in the book; Simpson is too small, there isn’t enough variety or the administration somehow upset them. Although I’m proud to say that many of my peers are intelligent and inspirational, I’m not entirely sure how to address those students that do nothing but complain.
I am a firm believer in the phrase, “you get what you put into it,” and it is disheartening to see students leaving Simpson simply because they did not think they had to put in any effort to get involved or excel academically.
Simpson has a lot to offer. The networking opportunities and connections I have made have been immensely gratifying, the service and volunteer opportunities plentiful, the extracurricular opportunities rewarding and the study abroad experiences worthwhile.
No matter how much you push and prod some students to get more involved you will, at some point, be faced with apathy. I have had to twist more than one friends’ arm into studying abroad and have had to justify the plethora of extracurricular activities available to multiple audiences.
If I have learned anything as a student leader, it is that you cannot make everyone happy. Although I attempted to use that reasoning to reconcile why some students do not feel the same about Simpson as others, I am convinced there is more.
What if Simpson did not spend as much time and energy attempting to bolster the student population? Aggressive recruitment sounds as if we are looking for quantity, not quality.
I am well aware that some things do come down to numbers, and by no means am I happy about what that lack of money means or the loss of jobs that may indicate.
However, I would rather have five students that want to be here and want to make an impact than 50 that came here just because they were somehow recruited.
Where has this mentality come from, that we must continue to grow and grow and grow? Sure, progress is great, but what are we progressing toward, and what is the purpose of our progression?
Instead of spending so much energy recruiting, why not spend that effort retaining?
Also, instead of pointing fingers at the curriculum or the administration for your personal dissatisfaction, perhaps look at your involvement and the effort you have put into your college career.
After all, you really do get what you put into it.
Hannah Landgraf is a history and religion major with a women’s studies minor. She is the former president of Simpson’s Religious Life Community. She’s a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, and spent one semester studying abroad in England.