Editorial: Are students top priority?

When it comes to campus events, Skyline students are certainly blessed. The problem is we just don’t know it.

There are four-year institutions that couldn’t – or wouldn’t – pull the likes of Dr. Cornel West for a graduation speech, let alone a regular old Wednesday in September.

Opportunities of this caliber are hard to come by outside of Skyline, but on campus, students have access to these types of events a couple of times a semester. It may be hard to believe that the student body could actually complain about this, but the reality is that while students technically have access to these events, they are just as hard to find on campus as off.

One might expect that, in anticipation of an A-list speaker like Dr. West, flyers would be plastered all over campus, and the school website would feature the announcement front and center on the homepage. The fact is, a direct search for “Cornel West” on skylinecollege.edu returned only news of last year’s cancellation. No flyers were posted, and an email announcing the September 11 lecture was sent to students on September 9, far too late for such a high-demand guest. The video screens that run the campus calendar are hardly a factor here, since the ESPN news ticker might be visible from down the hall on those screens, but the campus calendar is relegated to a fine-print sized section that’s barely readable in passing. The average student hurrying to and from class would be hard-pressed to say if the event was listed on the screen.

The Skyline Success Summit found other ways to discourage students. While the Skyline website did list the event on the calendar, tickets cost $75. That’s not exactly in the price range of a fledgling college student.

The China Dance School performance was billed as the premier event in Skyline’s Asian Heritage Week, but the event was clearly the premier event for the dance school, rather than our own. With the few Skyline students in attendance boxed out by a theater full of the dancers’ family and friends, one has to wonder why this was a Skyline event, and not just an event that occurred at Skyline.

Though student turnout at these events ranges from underrepresented to totally absent, faculty are certainly there in droves, front and center, taking bows, receiving bouquets and congratulatory applause for a job well done.

If the goal of these events is to expose as many students as possible to enriching or inspiring cultural and educational experiences than the job has not been done well at all.

This is not a case of “if you build it they will come.” Faculty cannot just place Cornel West in the theater on a Wednesday night, whisper the news, and start patting themselves on the back. Nor can they bring a group of San Mateo County’s top movers and shakers to the library and expect students to shell out $75 when they have plenty of more pressing expenses to take care of.

These are events that potentially have a greatly beneficial impact on the lives of students, and a comparatively meager impact on the lives of faculty, who are already well-established in their lives, careers, and educations. When the publicity of these events shows a clear de-prioritization of the student body in both practice and result, yet faculty stand in the spotlight soaking up the kudos, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the faculty’s top priority is the faculty.

If the faculty of this school wants the students to recognize a job well done, the faculty need to recognize that, until every seat in the theater is filled by a wide-eyed student broadening his or her horizons through these events, the job has not been done.

The calendar of Skyline events is impressive, and for that we will be thankful, as soon as faculty cease to under-promote, overcharge, or mislabel those events in ways that, intentional or not, de-prioritize the student body, and benefit the faculty.

Update: the article has been edited to change “ESPN style news ticker” to “ESPN news ticker” because the video screen around campus at the time of this article does indeed use the ESPN news ticker. 11:54 a.m. 10/16/2014