Friday, January 15, 2016

Criticism of BU students unfounded

I wrote this opinion piece, which was published on Jan. 13, in response to a letter that appeared earlier in the month. I want to share it with you as we begin the spring 2016 semester.

Since becoming president of Bloomsburg University eight years ago, I often have been told our institution is the focus of unfounded criticism because we are an “easy target.” That holds more than a small degree of truth.

As a comprehensive public institution, we provide access to higher education for students from all backgrounds, hometowns and ways of life: local students and those who hail from elsewhere, including our traditional stronghold in the five-county greater Philadelphia area; students who transfer from community colleges; veterans entering college after serving our country; and other non-traditional adult students. We welcome students who meet our admissions criteria, based on their high school class ranking, academic grade point average and performance on standardized tests; introduce them to the university and the town with a comprehensive orientation program; and offer support services, as needed, including tutoring, advisement and guidance.

The racial and cultural make-up of our nation and our commonwealth has changed significantly over the years. I am proud that enrollment at Bloomsburg University nearly mirrors the population of our state today with under-represented minorities making up 14.5 percent of our student body, up from just 2.25 percent in 1980. It is, I believe, the responsibility of every college and university to broaden students’ perspectives by introducing them to cultures and experiences different from their own. At Bloomsburg University, we not only believe in the importance of diversity, we embrace it.

We emphasize our commitment to a diverse student body, faculty and staff in our mission statement: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is an inclusive comprehensive public university that prepares students for personal and professional success in an increasingly complex global environment. This statement underscores our belief that diversity is essential to prepare our students — approximately 2,000 graduates per year — for the realities of the world in which they will live and work.

Most of our students take full advantage of the opportunities available to them and make a positive difference on our campus and in the Town of Bloomsburg. I have been delighted to work with student leaders from diverse backgrounds through the Council of Trustees, Community Government Association, fraternities, sororities and other organizations.

Overall, our students volunteer more than 68,000 hours to the local community each year, valued at more than $1.4 million. You’ll find students of all races serving as interns in local schools and organizations, sharing their marketing expertise with businesses, and helping with spring clean-up projects during the annual Big Events. Student organizations have raised thousands of dollars for local charities and provided tons of food to the Bloomsburg Food Cupboard. And this list just scratches the surface.

It is clear: Bloomsburg University students’ skills, talents, energy and enthusiasm enhance the quality of life on campus and in town every day, regardless of where they grew up or the color of their skin. This is one of the many reasons I am proud to serve as president of Bloomsburg University.

#CollaborativeLearning #SenseOfCommunity #CoCurricularLearning

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