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The Griffin Editorial: Circle This Idea and First Year Favoritism

By Patrick Healy

Circle this idea

In our last edition, this column critiqued overreliance on resources such as the Griff Center in the college’s plan to retain more students. We questioned the statistical validity of comparing retention rate between students who chose to take First Year Experience class and those who didn’t, a “data” point relied on to justify the college’s remarkable faith in FYE. Besides there being a numerical defect in the data (many more students take FYE than don’t), the comparison is flawed because students who choose not to take a 1-credit freshman seminar could very well be more likely to drop out of college with or without the class.

We propose a different “data” set, based on our own experience of what is memorable from our own core curriculum classes: Have half of the ENG 111 classes sit in a circle every class. Have the other half sit in normal rows. Compare the retention rates between the two groups. As a comparison of two equally sized groups who are equally obligated to take ENG 111, it’s more statistically sound. Our method also has the added benefit of not costing any money or manpower.

Besides being better for the hard of hearing, circles tend to undermine the tyranny of the tryhards, the students (couldn’t be us) who like to hear themselves talk. We don’t have the data to prove it, but we subjectively suspect that the tryhards aren’t the ones dropping out or transferring. We think it is those perhaps shyer classmates, the ones who we think are less likely to connect themselves to the class and to campus in general, who this simple proposal would help feel more included, even if the inclusion is geometrically forced onto them.

For all the contributions Student Life and the Griff Center make to enrich and support students who want those extracurriculars and resources, Canisius should focus first on the literal classroom, where many students spend a plurality of their time on campus, if it cares about connecting with students who are less willing to seek for themselves connection or help but still need it.-PH

First-year favoritism

Speaking of the First Year Experience class, one of President Stoute’s favorite proposals is for him to teach an FYE section. It is a novel idea which could help him understand students better, but The Griffin is concerned that it could cheapen the course. A dozen first year students would get a cool boon in being taught by the college’s top brass, but the rest might feel worse off for not having that experience. More pressing, how would those students be selected—to which section would Stoute be assigned?

We’ve evidently made it a habit to parrot the president’s prose, so let’s commit to the habit: he should be “intentional” about his choice of which FYE class to teach. FYE sections are sorted roughly by major, with a few special sections for undecided majors or athletes.

As a former undergraduate business major and soccer player, President Stoute could possibly teach a BUSX (FYE equivalent for Business majors) section or one of the athlete sections. Or he could be randomly assigned. But none of those options feel purposeful enough to expend both the president’s valuable time and potentially engender jealousy among other sections.

President Stoute was a first-generation college student. Canisius last year established a chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha, the first-generation college student honor society, and then Stoute, preaching the importance of diversifying enrollment, was picked as president the next year. The dots are too close not to connect. While The Griffin has no wish to unduly segregate certain students by their parents’ educational status, we think it might be beneficial for first-generation students to see how someone like them in that regard is now the leader of their school.

As a college president, Stoute ought to prioritize those students who could be among the most likely to feel uncomfortable with college life and thus drop out. Most of the time, that would mean remaining in the background and making sure the right faculty and staff are in position to help those students. This is one instance, though, where he, not only as a president but as a person, could make a big difference through intimate involvement in the college’s academics.-PH

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