Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rohrscheib's Empty Words

Have you read this?: Saving Illinois

Reading this column, I am struck by the irony in Josh Rohrscheib's empty words. He sets out to speak to the importance of building community, and he systematically attacks many of the community's members. He attacks the administration. He attacks unnamed academic units. He attacks housing. One cannot build a community by destroying its members.

U of I students would be wise to take a new direction with its student leaders. Finding people who are willing to work with the police, housing, and the administration instead of taking them on would do much to build the community of which Josh speaks.

7 Comments:

Blogger Josh Rohrscheib said...

You'll notice that my column "Saving Illinois" did not attack a single person by name. I'm curious about just who it is you think I'm trying to "destroy." It's difficult to agitate for change without criticizing the status quo.

Administrators should treat students as both consumers and constituents, in either role it is entirely appropriate to publicly criticize current campus practices.

Any student body president who serves an entire year without upsetting any bureaucrats hasn't been a zealous enough advocate, perhaps I upset more than a reasonable share, but it was always in advancing the interests of the students.

If you talked to those administrators I worked with on a regular basis, I think they would tell you that on the whole I was reasonable and fair minded and that working together we accomplished a great deal this year. You can look at my "State of the Student Senate" column for some examples, or consider the 250 new students next year who will be awarded the legacy scholarship. I served my constituents to the best of my ability every day. I admit I was overzealous at times, but that's a hell of a lot better than being not pushing hard enough.

I do think you missed the broader point of my column which is students feel more like cattle than constituents or consumers, and that this must change for U of I to have a higher donor rate. Whenever students want to do anything we are merely asked for our ID number. If you'd like to discuss ways we can make students more fond of Illinois and more willing to give back in the future, I would welcome that dialogue. You fail to mention many of the legitimate ideas/ critcisms in the column. I challenge you to identify ways to make our giant campus feel more personal.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Don said...

First, let me say that as a UI student, I enjoyed the dual nature of this campus. I liked the anonymity of the Quad or a Foellinger class, but I also enjoyed being a part of the smaller communities-my res. hall, my major, etc.

Second, I should say that as an alum, I do not donate. Why? The Chief. When the UI gets rid of that divisive symbol, they'll get my dollars.

As for making this place a more attractive target for donors, I wish I knew the answer to that one. If I did, I'd quit my teaching job, become a consultant, and rake in the dollars. However, I think the key is community building. This is a campus of factions. At least, it was when I was a student. Creating "town hall" meetings where people come together to discuss their differences and create a shared vision for themselves and the University might be a small step in the right direction. Training staff to see students beyond their ID numbers would prove valuable, too.

We probably agree on a lot of these issues. Where I disagree is with the public criticism. I'm old enough to know that when you become overzealous once or twice, your reputation kills your ability to navigate poltically charged areas. People stop listening to you. Advocating for students is the role of any ISS president, but that doesn't mean you have to target folks as enemies and bureaucrats to do so.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Josh Rohrscheib said...

Don - I didn't do it lightly. Unfortunately, sometimes there is no other way to get people to listen to students. It sounds like you're experienced enough in the way things work at UIUC that you can appreciate how often students don't have any voice at the table at all.

I'd say that over 95% of the time when I was ISS Pres, we were able to effectively work with administrator without getting confrontational, as we did with housing. Housing was a special situation. Jack Collins refused to give us data that students at a public institution have a right to receive, even after being ordered to give it to us by the Vice Chancellor. We were within a few days of holding a protest outside his office when the VCSA finally made his office turn the data over. We were asking for the data from October until I believe February. After several different students asked through several different channels, and nothing else worked, we became more confrontational. Still, I think we exercised some restraint. I could have easily written a column about the residence halls being shut down, despite students still paying the RHA fee. I could have wrote about the time Jack Collins outright lied to a group of student leaders (lunch bunch) about the price of the dorms. I could have written a detailed account of our dealings w/ him on our request for data, in which he seemed to be working very hard to conceal potential evidence of disparate treatment of different racial groups in the dorms. We did show some restraint.

Your comment about giving I think is misguided. Whatever success you have in life, is at least partially due to the University of Illinois. If you consider yourself successful, you have some obligation to give back. You shouldn't use the chief as an excuse for not giving. If that really troubles you, give to the native cultural house, or give to some of the departments that have taken a position against the chief.

Are you willing to commit to giving when the chief is gone? I think that time might come soon. I have made a commitment to the college of law, and I'll likely give to a few other campus units as well.

While I'm sure we would disagree on some things, it seems to me like we'd see eye to eye on far more than we'd disagree on. We both were privileged to go to a great university that we both care deeply about.

Instead of attacking me on your blog, you could have heeded your own advice and emailed me directly first, I could have explained the housing situation. If you saw the length to which they went to avoid giving us data they absolutely should have given us, chances are you'd be more sympathetic to my methods. Honestly, I wasn't a raging zealot most of the time, but if it was necessary, and if it got results from students, I felt like I had a duty to put heat on some people if nothing else worked.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Josh R said...

Town halls are a decent start - if you could get people to come to them.

The Chief does hurt in one other way. If you look at other schools, they are able to harness campus symbols/traditions in lots of different community building ways. Our "symbol" isn't something our administration is able to use in the same way.

there is a common bond in being wolverines that can be celebrated in a way that being illini cannot, at least, that way wont be embraced by liberal minded administrators.

12:08 AM  
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