Students received an email with the subject “Shipsgiving” from SU President Laurie Carter on Nov. 16. 

In many respects, the content of the email was standard, offering wishes for a happy Thanksgiving, safe travels and expressing how great it is to be part of the campus community at SU.

Do not worry, though. It did not beat around the bush too long with these sentiments. After the second paragraph, the reason for the message was clear. 

“As I have consistently said, turning around enrollment and making positive change won’t happen without everyone pitching in and you have enthusiastically said and demonstrated that you want to take part,” the email reads. “To that end, I have a way you can help. All you have to do is tell your story. Today you will likely be getting this Shipsgiving [application fee] waiver coupon….”

All you have to do is tell your story… and do the thankless leg-work of peddling our waiver coupons. There are no kickbacks of any kind or recognition received for getting prospective students to apply and potentially enroll here. It is simply expected. 

The email goes on to say:

“Hand over the coupon and tell your story of what Ship means to you. With its holiday flavor, the coupon is perfect to take to friend/family gatherings over the next few weeks. While the fee waiver is great, what’s more important, is that it provides a conversation starter for you. It’s a way for you to tell our story in a personal way. Even if you don’t encounter any high school students, chances are, you know a parent or a relative of a high school student. Use the coupon to help us get the word out in the most personal way. Your Ship experiences and stories are our best recruiting tools. Share them with anyone who will listen.”

The model Ship student must always be chomping at the bit to sell the university to their friends and family. So much so that they are in need of a pre-determined reason to bring the subject up during their Thanksgiving meal because everyone is sick of hearing about it. Hopefully the “holiday flavor” will help everyone stomach your guerilla public relations work. 

We digress, but this is where the problem lies. It is not that we object to the idea of being asked to help SU grow and prosper. It is that we object to Carter painting this not as something we could possibly do to help out, but as an obligation. 

SU has provided us with many great opportunities and an education on-par with major universities for a fraction of the price. A desire to help should spawn out of the great experiences we are afforded here, not out of a perceived responsibility. 

Now, we understand the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has fallen on rough times as of late. Enrollment across all 14 state-system schools has been either stagnant or falling since 2010, and the budget mess in Harrisburg means schools are operating with the same support they were getting 20 years ago, according to Public Opinion. But, we fail to see how it is our problem as students. 

Every single time there is an issue with PASSHE, state government or the university, we as students are the ones who are expected to take a heavier burden. We are the one’s paying higher tuition rates. We are the ones who take a back seat when an agreement cannot be reached on professor’s contracts. Now we are the ones who have to turn around a problem with enrollment. 

Sorry, but no. This is not our problem. There are people with full-time jobs and salaries to do this work. Last time we checked, we are paying the university, not the other way around. It is a two-way street. 

If we decided to distribute these coupons and tell prospective students about our experience here, it will be because SU held up its end of the bargain in providing us with a quality education and valuable experiences, not because we feel compelled to do so. 

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