Green grass, a new president and a fresh class of students is almost enough to forget the turmoil Shippensburg University endured in the past few years.
Between construction projects that made SU look like a battlefield, the unprecedented faculty union strike and the sudden changes in SU’s leadership, life at SU was eventful to say the least. The coming academic year will serve as an opportunity to forget past hardships and focus on the future.
But it’s not just what happened on campus that caused division and stress in people’s lives, it’s what happened off campus too. Outside of the peaceful Cumberland Valley lies a world of hate-filled lunatics who ram cars into crowds of people, politically charged demagogues yelling at each other into TV cameras and impending doom from North Korea’s nuclear weapon’s program.
SU, however, should serve as a haven from fear and hate. Like all educational institutions, it should be a place that breeds respect for old and new ideas, and the courage to critically analyze them. Students need to remain focused on education and solving problems — not letting divisiveness and fear rule their lives.
Now is the chance for stability and to have a determined focus on meeting SU’s institutional mission. In part, the mission states SU’s “ultimate goal is to have students develop to their utmost the intellectual, personal, and social capabilities they need to perform as competent citizens prepared to embark on a career immediately upon graduation or after advanced study.”
SU’s new president, Laurie Carter, will be a key figure in maintaining a peaceful and disciplined educational environment, but it is up to everyone to achieve that. The burden for student success does not rest entirely in the hands of the administration or the faculty. In fact, it rests primarily within each student to graduate and have a fulfilling experience at Ship.
Administrators and faculty members, however, have the obligation to make sure students have a reasonable opportunity to have a fulfilling experience. This is not an easy task as SU and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) faces continued budget restraints and declining enrollment, but it’s a task they must complete. Cooperation will be key to meet SU’s mission given the recent history between the faculty union and PASSHE.
In the coming days PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan is set to retire, which gives the system a chance to have a clean slate. Regardless of a person’s opinion of Brogan, he was the leading face of the administration during the strike, which naturally leaves a lingering attitude and memory of those trying days. With a new chancellor there is an opportunity to heal not-so-old wounds.
As PASSHE, and specifically SU, looks to the coming year it can expect uncertainty. And where there is uncertainty, there is opportunity.