When reflecting on the growing tension here at Yale, I can’t help but think about my time at Drexel. The events that precipitated the growing push for changes at Yale are very similar to events that happened when I was a student at Drexel, as well as events that I have heard about since graduating.
I am extremely proud of the Drexel students who participated in the march. Drexel is not as committed to encouraging students to voice their concerns as they should be, and the vocational focus of the school complicates this even further. A march would have been impossible when I was a student.
As an alum, I would like to encourage Drexel students to use the march as an event to inspire changes at the university. I would also encourage the creation of a list of demands that goes further than what we are seeing in some instances nationally. For example, Drexel tuition is overpriced and should be reconsidered, however, we should look further to the opportunity costs that Drexel overcharges like housing. As a student I had an issue with housing insecurity, often hiding out in the dorms over break instead of sleeping on 30th Street. When I finally had enough money to move off campus I was charged a percentage of what I would have paid for housing if I remained on campus. That premium is a significant portion of the loans I had to take out for school, and still pay today.
I would also like to see a mandatory course in gender and ethnic studies. As a student, I was not challenged enough in this area and I retreated into a nasty form of libertarianism which could have been averted had I had the right inspiration to understand problems beyond my own white skin. I recognize a large reason for why many students attend Drexel is because they view education as credentialing tool for means of employment, and my unchallenged views on the world negatively impacted my job search after graduation. Had I known that this form of education negatively impacts student outcomes for reasons beyond my anecdotal evidence, I would have transferred.
A final and more controversial change that I would like to see is either more funds for unpaid co-ops with the university or make the co-op program optional. The University is straddling between two almost mutually exclusive education models, where you either train workers or create leaders.
The co-op program is excellent for local firms who are unwilling to train their own workers, and unwilling to pay for that training. Training takes up valuable academic time that could be spent challenging our students more rigorously. I don’t think they have released any descriptive statistics on the matter, but I would not be surprised if the co-op program disproportionately impacts students of color. There is a growing literature on how vocational models negatively impact the lives of people of color and whites in poverty. With all of that said, as a psychology major, my options were to work at a church unpaid (while I paid Drexel for that opportunity) or a firm downtown where I was put up against masters students. Obviously, I chose to be the University’s photographer, where I broke even for taking pictures for the University’s website, some of which I still see in use today. I think that if you would like work experience to replace classroom time then there are plenty of research labs at the University who could use funding from the endowment to have students earn better experience than what is currently offered.
I remember from a meeting when I was a photographer an administrator of Drexel was criticizing my photos, asking why students were never smiling. When I was a student, the Drexel experience was a narrow one, limited to only your close friends who didn’t transfer out and who were on the same co-op schedule as you. The only reason you were there was to get a job and I would like to see this change.