This letter is in response to the opinion piece in last week’s issue titled “Building Bentley will cost us big bucks.” I would like to state that I have been enrolled in the Honors program for the past three years but I am certain that I would be making the same arguments regardless of my relationship with the program.
The author is in clear opposition to the investment that the University is making towards the Bentley Hall initiative. Through this letter I hope to respond to some of their objections and make a case for this facility upgrade.
In its current setup, the Honors program (the college and the program are two distinct but related entities, and the project aims to help both) and facilities associated with it are placed in different locations — Millennium Hall, MacAlister Hall and the library, among other spaces. Providing the program a cohesive, unified space will certainly improve the quality of the program and help foster a sense of community. One may argue that this community is exclusive rather than inclusive because it will be built for Honors students only, but this is no different than a fraternity or sorority, operating on an opt-in basis.
The author points to the existing accommodation arrangements in Millennium Hall for Honors students. By placing Honors students in Bentley, spaces in Millennium are freed up. This is a zero-sum proposition in terms of bed occupancy. In fact, it only adds value in terms of engagement. By placing the students in close proximity with the college, both the students and the college benefit.
“We are all sorry we aren’t in the honors program and that Drexel thinks we aren’t academically talented, but we all don’t get the honors program perks,” the writer added sourly.
Drexel does in fact think all its students are ‘academically talented,’ which is why we were accepted to the university. One may contend that the Honors program thinks that “we aren’t academically talented” but through the multiple opportunities they provide to enroll into the program even after you have started at Drexel, they certainly let you prove otherwise and make use of the “transformative experience.”
It is misleading, if not outright false, to say that Drexel does not consult its students. The university organizes town halls, albeit at an unsatisfactorily low frequency, when undertaking a new initiative. The Undergraduate Student Government Association serves as a liaison with the University officials and holds its own town halls. Contact information for University officials that are involved in the decision making processes is easily available on the University’s website. The problem is not that we are not consulted. The problem is that we, the students, often do not engage. USGA positions go uncontested. We do not attend said town halls. In some cases, our opposition remains restricted to Thursday-deadlined opinion pieces (I have been involved with the paper for more than a year).
“Drexel doesn’t bat an eye at challenging but intimate liberal arts courses. But the new project will change that,” the author continued.
Traditionally an engineering school, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Drexel doesn’t “bat an eye at” liberal arts courses. Although I contend that it does, hence the Honors program. And, if it does in fact not care, this donation is a positive step towards making them care about liberal arts programs and should be welcomed.
Lastly, I would like to discuss the urgency of this facility upgrade. The writer contends that the money is being spent on something that is not “urgently needed.” I may be parsing this incorrectly, but my impression is that the author argues that this upgrade would benefit a selected group and such money should be spent on more general purpose initiatives. The author refutes their own argument by proposing initiatives that would only benefit subgroups. The parking initiatives for the commuter population only helps commuters and an extra dorm would only help freshmen. Certainly, these should not be pursued either, right?
Any facility upgrade, especially if already supported by a donor, should be welcomed. These upgrades cumulatively improve the Drexel experience one facet at a time. In my opinion these “big bucks” are being well-spent.