Luther College Chips

Students returning from semesters off-campus deserve support

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Students returning from semesters off-campus deserve support

Olivia Benson

Olivia Benson

Olivia Benson

Olivia Benson

Olivia Benson, Head Copy Editor

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Every semester dozens of Luther students spend time off-campus studying abroad, student teaching, or participating in residencies or other off-campus educational opportunities. For many, they put in significant effort to ensure that their transition to their off-campus experience is smooth by planning travel arrangements, ensuring their rooming situation is set for the next year, and tying up loose ends on campus.

Having student taught off-campus this fall I can attest that I spent part of my spring and much of my summer packing and preparing for my learning experience outside of Luther.

Upon completion of my semester away I was excited to return to campus, reconnect with friends, and enjoy my last semester as a student. However, my enthusiasm could not counteract the disappointment and frustration I felt over the lack of support I received upon returning to campus.

My experience returning to Luther began with my room key not being at the front desk, which led to a security guard unlocking the Residence Life office for me and looking in drawers until he found the stack of keys. Not exactly a warm welcome home.

Further, when I pursued returning to music ensembles and work study positions I had to be entirely proactive in ensuring that I would be able to reenter communities I had been a part of for years. While I understood the need for me to initiate these conversations, I was shocked to find I had already missed deadlines for some opportunities, or that they had forgotten about my return in the spring and had already made other arrangements.

I was lucky enough to negotiate the positions and work study hours I needed, but I was appalled at how much I had fallen off the radar of groups of which I was a significant member. I could not help but wonder as to why there seemed to be no systems or procedures to support my return to campus. I was also lucky, I am not one of the students off-campus in the spring who for next year’s room draw must depend on a friend or peer, trusting a fellow student with a significant decision concerning their next year on campus.

Additionally, I had been removed — or never added to — certain email lists, such as those for residence halls, seminars, or other events and opportunities on campus. I won’t lie, it was nice to receive less mail about events on campus and the like that I could not attend. Yet this also left me unaware about developments or changes on campus in the fall that have continued to affect me into the spring.

I was ignorant concerning information regarding my housing and very nearly missed my music lesson and seminar, as no one was informed I was rejoining the studio. The week before I moved back to campus I remember feeling uneasy about the lack of information I had received, wondering if there was something I had missed, dumbfounded about the lack of communication on behalf of the college.

I understand that perhaps this is just the reality of being off-campus for a semester, that the quick transition back to college might just inevitably be difficult. Further, I recognize that only a small portion of Luther students are off-campus in any one semester, that it is hyperbolic to suggest that this is a high-priority issue for administration in the midst of low-enrollment and other challenges.

However, I would argue that the alienation and absence of support for off-campus students would be easily solved with a few simple college-wide systems or email chains that can ultimately keep off-campus students from being isolated. This could mean simply alerting professors and bosses sooner of which students will be returning to campus next semester, or organizations, ensembles, residence halls better communicating with off-campus students about events, elections, changes, etc. that will continue to affect them in the spring. By simply providing these supports, students will not only have to depend on themselves and their initiative when it comes to returning to Luther.

By being kept in the dark as an off-campus student I lost all my say in changes or events that I had a stake in, lost some of my independence, and was made to feel second-rate to students that were accessible, informed, and on-campus. I don’t want to suggest that my experience is indicative of everyone’s.

However, it cannot be denied that Luther is doing a disservice to student teachers, students studying abroad, or students pursuing other educational opportunities. Students should not be punished and inconvenienced for their time off-campus. Rather, they deserve to feel positive and supported upon returning to Luther, not as if the college as a whole has moved on and forgotten them.

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