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November 12, 2001

Students: 'Join us online'

Christopher Richardson is a junior political science/history major, is president of the Emory College Council.


In recent years, Emory has looked for ways to improve student interaction with the faculty and other facets of the University. The administration is currently examining the idea of introducing a residential college—where students and faculty would live together—as the primary way to bring these two levels of Emory together.

While the idea of residential colleges is a noble one, we must first take several steps before we reach the point where we are ready for faculty and students to live together. The faculty and staff must attend our student meetings, must help us in our planning of events, and lastly, must sign on to our growing online community.

If Emory just converts to a residential college where faculty and students live together, yet do not know how to interact with one another, then it will be a fruitless effort and one bound to fail.

Before moving Emory another inch toward a residential college system, I would like to challenge the faculty, staff and administrators to build closer relations with students. My first challenge is that all professors, administrators and staff attend at least three student-run events a semester. I challenge them to come to our meetings and test us beyond the classroom setting.

In doing this, they as faculty members may feel awkward, but every great initiative requires a first step. Every club on campus has a faculty or staff advisor, yet they rarely do anything with the organizations they are supposed to advise. If faculty and staff begin attending student-run meetings now, then in future years—when we do have a residential college system—students won’t feel so awkward seeing faculty outside of a classroom.

During College Council’s Halloween Carnival, the vendor who worked with us was struck by the fact that only a few administrators turned out for this event. While I thought this was the norm, he commented that at most schools with which he did programming, the staff and faculty came out to student events regularly. To be honest, I’ve seen John the Pasta Guy from our beloved Dobbs Center Food Court at more student events on this campus than the highest administrators and professors.

My next challenge is that faculty and staff not only attend the meetings, but also help us plan and organize our events. I especially think that volunteer and community service should be coordinated together between students, faculty and staff. I cannot think of a better image than of the top administrators and the top student leaders doing a community-service event together to benefit the Atlanta community.

What better way to prove to Atlanta that Emory is not a self-serving kingdom of snobs than to volunteer and organize—not separately, but together as a community of faculty, staff, administrators and students? If the University accepts this challenge, organizing events under the residential college system will be a lot easier because students and faculty will have experience working with one another.

Another challenge to the faculty and staff here at Emory is to become involved in our growing online community. In just the past few years, LearnLink has become a part of most students’ daily lives.There are hundreds of conferences ranging in everything from political debate to Anime. If professors and staff become involved and grow with the students in this online community, relations would become closer.

Many administrators and professors lament what they see as the lack of debate within the Emory community and the seemingly sheepish student body. Within a classroom setting, most students may seem to cling to conformity, but it is in these online conferences where debate and intellectual conversations come alive. Though in the past, debate might have been held primarily in forums and classrooms, in today’s America, professors and staff have to realize that ideas and intellectual conversations now are found elsewhere.

If professors and staff do not embrace LearnLink and the online community, they can never fully relate to the student body, engage in constructive debate and see that there is indeed an academic atmosphere at Emory. While these online communities are full of intellectual conversations, many people post ideas without the facts and knowledge to back them up. A professor on any of those conferences can provide that knowledge and wisdom.

My last challenge is that professors and staff simply use the resources available. I ask that professors invite students out to lunch, be willing to be good advisors and encourage students to come to office hours. Often students feel alone when looking for classes or selecting majors. Our basis, as students, for choosing classes next semester is largely word of mouth from fellow students.

These ideas, while not simple, are a few steps we must take before we can switch to a residential college system. As of now, the idea of an Emory community is simply false, because students and faculty live and work on different levels. While we all want to change this, we cannot support or accept a residential college system until there is a foundation for it.

These steps and challenges are the foundations for that type of system. To truly become a community and adopt the residential college system, we must embrace each other beyond the classrooms and academic buildings, but within each others’ confines.

This essay first appeared in The Emory Wheel.


Back to Emory Report November 12, 2001