For thousands of years, from the tales of “Beowulf” and beyond, dragons have inhabited human mythology as creatures of greed and gluttony.
There could not be a mascot more appropriate for Drexel University than the dragon. A close observer of the atmosphere on Drexel’s campus might have noticed a recent rise of dissatisfaction within the university. Whether it be in regards to the elimination of free printing on campus, the Market Street food truck ban, or being forced to spend Sophomore year in expensive Drexel-affiliated apartment complexes, the trend is the same. When establishing these policies, money is the main motivator.
The University has recently clamped down on eliminating free printing campus-wide. One page can be printed at most locations for a modest price of 10 cents. A student writing a 10-page paper three times a term for five classes spends $15. For a student experiencing the four-term grind, that’s $60 a year. According to Alissa Falcone, writer for DrexelNow, the 2018 freshman class consisted of more than 3,300 students. With a class that size, more than $198,000 can be spent on printing within a single academic year. Despite the apparent insignificance of a 10-cent page, the numbers quickly add up to a clear motive.
Drexel University is more focused on what it can take from its students than what it can give them. Amidst Drexel’s budgeting shortfalls, attendance at the university has soared. Each of the past several years has seen the admittance of a freshman class of record-breaking size. Increased enrollment is a logical solution to budget deficits when an administration views its enrollees as little more than a source of revenue. More students, more papers, more textbooks, more tuition, more room and board. This mindset doesn’t only damage a student’s financial well-being, but their mental and physical well-being as well. As the University struggles to provide adequate housing and resources, students feel increasingly overcrowded and undervalued.
As students are being squeezed for money, they are also being squeezed into expensive apartments owned and managed by the Drexel-affiliated real estate corporation American Campus Communities.
In the last two years alone students have experienced both 12-hour wait times to sign leases that didn’t exist and burst pipes that would force them from their apartments and into hotel rooms. They’ve also endured broken elevators, early morning fire alarms, and rent prices well above the market average.
As long as those bills continue to be paid, a blind eye can be turned to the rest. Yet the heftiest of a Drexel student’s expenses is undoubtedly tuition. Much like graduating class size, this cost is steadily increasing on a yearly basis. The Chronicle of Higher Education lists Drexel’s tuition as rising from $30,440 to $53,279 in the 10 years between 2008 and 2018. Even with this flood of new income, the administration seems to spend these funds as fast as they can collect them.
The extravagant projects cropping up across campus seem to be of little benefit to the student body wading waist-deep in college debt, several of which leave them scratching their heads. The building of a bubble dome over Buckley, the failure of a partner hospital and the subsequent scattering of medical students, and the creation of the U.S. Squash National Center in the heart of campus, are only a few of these useless projects.
Then there is the hemorrhaging of funds through scandals and legal settlements like with Chikaodinaka D. Nwankpa’s strip club spending spree, which the Washington Post’s Lateshia Beachum details as having first lost students nearly $200,000 of federal research funds, and then Drexel itself the same amount when the University agreed to pay the Justice Department back for the stolen funds.
However, dragons are not always creatures of greed and corruption. In Eastern cultures, dragons can be auspicious symbols of prosperity and good luck. We need members of the Drexel community committed to cultivating the type of mascot that best reflects our values. When looking upon Mario the Dragon, people should not be reminded of Drexel’s voracious greed but of a University built around benefitting the people that it consists of.
The students, faculty and families of this university do not need a dragon for Drexel, but rather a Mario for the masses.