Last week, The Triangle published an article titled “Drexel University positivity begins and ends with the students,” which argued that although Drexel has its flaws, we as a student body should view it in a better light. The author claimed to have voiced all the same complaints as other students, namely the meal plan, but that at the end of the day, we should all have a little more “school spirit.” It disappoints him that we don’t have “more of an upbeat spirit.” But why, I ask, should we be expected to defend an institution that has put so many interests before us?
Those who know me have almost certainly fallen victim to one of my lengthy rants about the meal plan. This is a plan that I, as a first-year Drexel student, am required to purchase each quarter for the first year. This is an additional $2,000 to my tuition bill and supplies me with ten meal swipes per week and $375 to be used at select locations on campus.
This equates to roughly $14.27 per meal swipe (($1,945-$375)/10 swipes/11 weeks). For $14, I could feed myself for the day at only food trucks and still save money. I could go to the grocery store and feed myself for a week. But instead, I begin my day with a trip to Urban Eatery, a fine establishment complete with sticky floors, outlets jammed with crumbs and an underpaid staff. For $14.27, I receive a muffin and a black coffee. Quite the value.
Despite my best efforts to use all of my swipes on the greasy burgers from Ignite or bland pasta from Vespa ten times a week, I never once have used all of my swipes. The use of only seven swipes a week increases the price per swipe to over $20! While freshmen force themselves to eat unhealthy, gross food for thousands of dollars, John Fry gets paid over $1 million per year. Is Mr. Fry worried that he won’t be able to afford his own food if his students don’t shovel out that extra $2,000?
Furthermore, Drexel residence halls are a disaster. I currently live in Bentley Hall, which is newly renovated. In order to provide an inclusive living experience, wheelchair accessible showers were installed in each of the gender-specific public bathrooms on every floor, and these showers were also included in both of the private bathrooms per floor.
The showers, however, were not installed with a strip drain, and because they are wheelchair accessible, the water freely flowed out. This doesn’t sound too bad, but so much water would escape that the entire bathroom would be covered in nearly an inch of water. To make matters worse, this water would leak into the carpet outside, greeting unsuspecting residents with a squishy, moist floor. And last but not least, with lack of sufficient ventilation, this water had nowhere to go except for into the drywall, which leads to rotted walls and black mold.
Moving onto even more grave issues, a few years ago, the head of the department of electrical and computer engineering mysteriously disappeared. When I was considering Drexel, a few students told me that they had no idea what happened to him, and the department has been a mess ever since. Soon later, however, it was discovered that he had spent nearly $200,000 of research money from the government on strip clubs and iTunes purchases. Even worse, this is not money that the government is just going to let go of. They are demanding that Drexel pays back $190,000. This puts the university out of nearly $400,000 in research money.
The source of these funds is what makes an already sad story even more depressing. Because President Fry must have been worried that he might not be able to eat or afford housing with under a $1 million salary, this money comes from defunding student organizations all around campus, rather than from a marginally lower salary for our president. Nearly every single organization saw cuts in their expected university funding at the beginning of fall term 2019.
These issues would be a lot easier to fight against if a student union existed, which is the next problem of Drexel University. The lack of a student union leads to the university and its administration being able to get off scot-free from their horrible decisions, such as attempting to force all food trucks off Market Street for the university’s own profit. I understand the desire to be proud of our university, but what is there to be proud of? I certainly would have more positivity if the university cared about my concerns, but until then, why should it deserve my praise?
With a powerful student union fighting for what we deserve, I might feel a little more proud of my university. If the administration weren’t interested only in its own profits, Drexel would be a little more deserving of positivity. However, as of now, I argue that it does not.
As students, we shouldn’t be complacent and let ourselves become victims, and while only complaining about it certainly won’t fix anything, direct action against the university will. I agree with Matthew Brooks in that better spirits are favorable, but I disagree with the notion that we should just “be more positive.” Better spirits will come from a better university, one which doesn’t actively exploit its students for greater accumulation of wealth to be shared among the university’s top administrators.