President John A. Fry has had his contract as Drexel University President renewed for another five years.
It’s easy to understand why President Fry has been renewed as Drexel’s president. From a political and networking perspective, he’s headed several projects that have made a lot of heads turn towards the Dragons. With Schuylkill Yards projects beginning now and in the next 10 years, it’s assumed that the positive attention from the world of business will only continue to increase. Fry’s flirtations with Amazon in the company’s hunt for a new headquarters location may or may not bring the behemoth to Philadelphia, but the fact that we’ve made the shortlist is definitely something for which he will be able to claim a small amount of credit.
However, when Drexel students are informed about the contract extension, the primary response may be: “Why?”
It’s no secret that Drexel is lacking in a certain “je ne sais quois” when it comes to that rowdy Drexel school spirit that our administration seems deluded into believing we have. So instead of focusing on the past years that President Fry has led the school and the actions have led to the cloud of general student dissatisfaction plaguing our campus, let us turn to some ideas for turning all that around in the years to come.
What makes Drexel students passionate? Active involvement on campus through student organizations and sports, the ability to work with the university to find great volunteer and engagement opportunities in the community, our connection to countless amazing co-op opportunities both locally and abroad, and the proximity of our campus to the fun of center city are just a few. It’s rare that a Drexel student will cite their excitement about the seemingly endless construction projects, our growing ties to behemoth corporations or the expensive on-campus housing that does little besides disappoint.
In a campus and curriculum designed to be as challenging as ours is here at Drexel, it’s so incredibly important for our administration to realize that it is just as important to foster creative, artistic, inclusive and engaging activities to feed students’ passions as it is to create larger networks and build our school’s credibility.
So, what would we like to see in the next five years? To start, it would be nice to have a new student center, with more space for student organizations to thrive and build better interpersonal relationships in this massive student body. It would be amazing to have a library that actually felt like a pleasant place to work and meet with groups, since that’s how students arguably spend the most of their time. Providing a larger facility and more funds to our civic engagement centers might finally give the staff there the resources they need to actively and realistically incorporate more students into their efforts. Our counseling services are currently only offered on a short-term basis with just one part-time psychiatrist available — yes, just one, for the entire student body. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the stress associated with a Drexel curriculum demands that we provide much better mental health services to our students. Let’s build or contract affordable student housing so that we can stop pushing our students into off-campus housing and gentrifying the surrounding communities. Let’s re-evaluate our hiring practices to ensure that we’re not accidentally employing staff members that have previously sexually harassed or assaulted anyone — especially not students.
President Fry is right: ambition can’t wait and neither can we. We can’t wait for these next five years to come — so long as some changes are finally made to effectively make our campus one to which we truly feel we belong.
A previous version of this article stated that President John A. Fry’s contract had been renewed for ten years, which was incorrect and has been fixed. The Triangle regrets this error.