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Brockport / American Democracy Project / Audit / Deficits and Opportunities

Deficits and Opportunities

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Just as important as learning about our successes is understanding where our biggest collective shortcomings are. Faculty and staff point out a variety of concerns that should be addressed.

Q. In your opinion, what are the biggest deficits in teaching, student learning, or the College environment with regards to encouraging civic engagement among our student body?

Responses – Undergraduate Faculty

  1. Lack of interest on the part of faculty. Lack of time on the part of faculty who may be interested. Very limited resources to encourage service / service learning
  2. Systematic media manipulations (e.g., recent Bush political ad) by the oligarchs to alienate the polity from the political process. Sense of futility has been effectively produced.
  3. Students are working full and part-time and claim they have little time outside of class for any other activities.
  4. Students are too busy with their jobs and social activities. Many students come from backgrounds that don't value reaching out to others or "wasting" time on civic responsibility.
  5. Communication and critical-thinking skills. Those are "infused" into the general-education curriculum. Consequently, I don't think they're taken seriously. For instance, how can public-speaking skills be practiced effectively with 40, 50, or 60 students in a classroom? Communication classes should be taught by communication teachers.
  6. Peer pressure to drink watching television apathy
  7. It is very time consuming and not reinforced by the greater academic community
  8. Lack of faculty support since it interferes with academic freedom.
  9. Students just don't seem to be interested from the get-go and we don't seem to emphasize volunteering here as much as we should.
  10. First and foremost, the nature of our discipline. It is too technical. Yet, recent research indicates that unless software development work is not fostered as a team, and the team does not have the right values in place (refer to recent publications on eXtreme Programming and other "agile programming methodologies") software projects will not be successful. The "lone warrior" days are gone. Therefore, I believe proper team building and project management are the right topics for this discipline, relating to this effort.
  11. Attendance at events Coordination of events Coherent effort to engage students
  12. That a community service project should be required in every course.
  13. A lack of understanding its relevance in today's world.
  14. Our students work too hard at paid jobs while still trying to go to school. Their time is rarely their own.
  15. Time and money
  16. The role of artistic expression in the college environment and society
  17. Academic professional responsibilities are sometimes a hindrance to more effective student learning
  18. Scheduling that allows this type of activity to happen. With the "broad-brush" scheduling our students have little flexibility to immerse themselves in community/civic engagement.
  19. Students who work often lack the time for internships and other forms of civic engagement
  20. Probably time constraints
  21. Don't feel qualified to assess. I am an adjunct.
  22. Class size. My average right now in my three classes is 37. No way to participate in this type of learning with such large numbers.
  23. Large adjunct faculty population.
  24. 1. Lack of umbrella organization on campus. 2. Not much evidence of student or faculty interest to date. 3. Brockport students are MUCH too involved with part-time jobs to have the time in my perception.
  25. We seem to have an apathetic student body, which makes it difficult to engage their attention on these issues.
  26. There are a number of forces that discourage civic mindedness in our students. Many students work and have a full schedule of classes, and claim they have no time for "getting involved." Most do not read a newspaper on a regular basis, and are therefore uninformed. Moreover, our consumer driven culture encourages young people to focus on the gain of material wealth and goods, and places the utmost value on individual achievement at the expense of the public good. This is the greatest challenge I have faced in teaching/the potential student learning.

Responses – Professional Staff

  1. Prior knowledge of events on campus
  2. Being 'PC' (politically correct) can be a cause for confusion in a college environment. Also, would like to see rules clarified before we get started---i.e. 1. Can faculty carry election petitions on campus; 2. Can they fundraise for candidates on campus, 3. Can they sell fundraising tickets for civic causes, etc?
  3. Until this project -- a general sense of unawareness and apathy among students and faculty and staff.
  4. Resources, i.e., time, money, and attempting to do more programs within existing staffing levels
  5. Greater awareness of the direct link between civic engagement and facilitating change for a better future.
  6. Lack of models
  7. There has been an overall lack of importance placed on civic engagement although a number of faculty DO include service-learning and/or civic engagement in their course(s) as requirements. Also, not enough opportunity is placed on the application of civic engagement principles outside the college.
  8. Lack of organization
  9. I think the college should increase the number of students doing volunteer internships for credit at local, national and international levels. In fact, more like what I understand the Delta College program to be doing already.
  10. Our students do not feel much of a need to give back
  11. A not very diverse faculty or student body
  12. Student Apathy and students lack of knowledge as to what opportunities are out there to become active in
  13. Time commitments Organization
  14. The college level is probably too late to teach civic engagement. Most values are already formed by this time.
  15. I think that our students need to understand a common definition of a liberal arts education as well as the historical role of higher education in this country (who was included/excluded, driving philosophical ideals, and so on). The students need to be able to situate their individual higher ed. experiences into a broader historical context which will in turn help them to feel more a part of a social system rather than mere individuals working through a system only as a means to an end. I think that students also need explicit practice and instruction in democratic ideals/practices. They need to see the connection between democracy and activities such as taking a position on an issue, debating an issue, and joining community organizations. They need to learn how to be citizens in a democratic nation in order for that democracy to continue.
  16. Students in general today are part of a "me" generation. When left with the option of doing something for others and doing for themselves, they choose themselves. At my previous college, students were required to do 120 hours of volunteer work to graduate. I served as a tutor to 1st and 2nd graders and it was a great experience. A dozen years later, I can still remember their faces and names.
  17. Not enough interaction on historically sensitive issues among the students in a structured and safe environment.
  18. Communication, consensus of philosophy, strategy and tools for implementation.
  19. Example.
  20. 1) apathy - students need to be informed about why these issues are important to them and directly impact their own lives and those of their families 2) time constraints and family obligations - the majority of our students work in addition to attending classes. Providing course credit for activities related to civic engagement would be a necessary carrot to encourage participation.
  21. Lack of availability of, emphasis on, acceptability of, encouragement of participation in any kind of civic engagement. This is obviously not just a Brockport problem but attitude and atmosphere need to be addressed before values can change.
  22. Lack of understanding by those with most influence college culture that does not promote attending events/hearing varying viewpoints
  23. I see a lot of apathy on the part of students regarding civic engagement. They may be willing to discuss issues but are not motivated to work for the betterment of society, unless "forced to" by an organization or class. In our area we had a poster with a positive patriotic message that we were asked to move because one student objected to it on the basis of separation of church and state. The proper response in my opinion would have been to engage the student in a discussion of this issue and our freedoms.
  24. Faculty/Staff personal commitment and participation to civic engagement.
  25. The level of apathy for anything not related to entertainment by our incoming students.
  26. Very heavy teaching load, naiveté on part of students
  27. We might reach more students if we put the message across different mediums. A community service might be mentioned in the Stylus, but not mentioned on 98.1 the Point. A student might see a sign in the cafeteria, but it's not in their e-mail. Not all students read the Stylus, listen to 98.1 the Point, go to the cafeteria or read all their e-mail. The message should be in a number of different places.
  28. Motivation to be engaged

As an initial part of the campus-wide discussion, we asked faculty and staff what they would like to see happen at the College with regards to student civic engagement. Adequate resources are a common, but not the only, request.

Q. What would you most like to see at the College in terms of civic engagement activities?

Responses – Undergraduate Faculty

  1. A dedicated staff member that focuses on civic engagement rather than the piecemeal approach we have now.
  2. Common reading based on something like Reagan's America by Garry Wills for first year students. Then a common text for second year students involving the student's major.
  3. More interdepartmental presentations and activities for student involvement.
  4. see question 26.
  5. Opportunities for service learning budgets and recognition
  6. A general education requirement that could be met either within or outside the major
  7. Release teaching time - this can be extremely time consuming More resources (i.e. van to take students to the inner city).
  8. Perhaps workshops about what civic activities can do for an individual and community, how the voting process works, etc.
  9. Coherent program with wide participation
  10. Regular community service on the part of faculty and students working together.
  11. There is currently a crisis of democracy within our colleges and universities. Instead of telling the larger community how to conduct its affairs colleges and universities should get their own houses in order. This entire project is wrongheaded in my opinion. You guys talk like you think we actually have "democracy" in contemporary America. What nonsense!!
  12. More financial support for students participating in public projects
  13. Public Forums and Debates
  14. Students giving to others within the community, i.e., big brothers, big sister programs, contribute to the elderly communities and involve them in activities at the college or extending our gallery program to support a friends for the arts program.
  15. Service learning situations where students work from the perspective of service recipients to create remedies to social conditions.
  16. More cross-discipline activities, planning, community projects. What a shameful waste of talent when it is not shared.
  17. Continue BCEC courses--perhaps require a one hour BCEC course for all undergrads
  18. Don't have a suggestion. (Sorry)
  19. Courses centered on community service/involvement. Getting them out there into new environments and relating it to their field would be enormously beneficial.
  20. 1. Volunteering (coordinate with various existing town and gown programs). 2. Real debates on controversial civic and policy issues (e.g. local ordinances, pollution, partial birth abortion, religion in the public square) with non-lightweight speakers on BOTH sides. We don't seem to have many of these.
  21. I think that service learning would be an important component for civic engagement but that it is time consuming and difficult to do. I think there have to be some built-in incentives for faculty to take on this kind of activity (course reduction, etc.)
  22. The freshman/transfer student orientation and APS course may provide a good context to include civic engagement activities. A seminar or brown bag series could be offered by CELT for faculty to learn and explore possible ways of integrating civic engagement activities into there classes (it should cover sciences, humanities, arts, etc.). An incentive should be given for BSG student clubs to participate in community service activities. Perhaps there could even be a student award.

Responses – Professional Staff

  1. Getting out the vote is too facile; need to make students care passionately about issues and be able to articulate their views in recognizable forums - how about a 'Town Crier' series of lectures? Also, USE existing structures - don't reinvent the wheel--- i.e., when Maya Angelou comes to speak at Brockport in Feb 2004 (BSG) - tie her talk into some uplifting engagement follow-up activity related to equal rights or women's opportunities, etc. Invite local high school or migrant ed kids in or other town/gown activity.
  2. I think a common reader -- if integrated and supported by faculty and staff -- is an excellent step in this direction.
  3. Increased voter registration, opportunities to discuss the issues during elections and to hear political candidates viewpoints on the issues.
  4. A greater correlation between civic activities and students understanding of the difference they are making for a better tomorrow.
  5. 1. More directed interaction among existing student groups that represent any kind of underrepresented populations. 2. More publicity about opportunities in the community and the greater Rochester area to get students involved in service-learning, political or governmental events etc. 3. An effort to document what students and employees at all levels are already doing. (I think we would be surprised to see that a lot of civic engagement is already happening.)
  6. Greater involvement of staff and faculty
  7. Organized encouragement for volunteer internships in community.
  8. More diversity
  9. Mandatory volunteer hours for all students to graduate
  10. More service groups More political involvement
  11. Buses to take interested students to demonstrations, legislative sessions, anywhere they can get a better understanding of how change is implemented in our country. More local involvement like clean up days and town improvement projects.
  12. Maybe Brockport should institute mandatory community service. When I first heard I had to do it, I groaned...but it turned into a worthwhile, fulfilling experience that benefited both parties.
  13. I think we are doing well with diversity speakers- but how to get all students to see diversity as critical to their own lives is the challenge. Perhaps encouraging the faculty to make many of these events a mandatory part of their course syllabi would help.
  14. Activities focused on the needs of the City of Rochester
  15. More outreach to the community. There is extraordinary talent within our campus and we should tap those resources to assist our local area with meeting needs and solving problems. The performing arts department could offer a free dance program, or do a performance to help raise money for a civic organization in need. The business department could offer "linked" services to new business owners. (accounting, market analysis, research) The nursing could host blood pressure clinics for the elderly. There is a lot we could do.
  16. All students required (for credit) to complete a certain number of hours in community some type of community service activity as a graduation requirement (this would most appropriately be completed as part of a major requirement or even an APS course.
  17. Bringing opportunities available to and accomplishments of faculty, staff and students to the forefront.
  18. Include them in curriculum develop a community covenant, which those who are committed to civic engagement sign provide resources for more bridges between curricular and co-curricular
  19. Mandated civic service
  20. Involvement with the Brockport community
  21. An office dedicated solely as a clearinghouse for information and campus facilitation of civic engagement activities.
  22. Activities that do not cost the student's money. Students will probably shy away from donating money, but they would be more apt to give their time.
  23. More volunteer work
  24. Service Learning Center

Lastly, we asked the faculty and staff to reflect on any untapped opportunities on campus. Once again, numerous solid ideas emerged.

Q. What untapped opportunities for civic engagement do you see in your classes, in others' classes, or in the campus as a whole?

Responses – Undergraduate Faculty

  1. Through the SW Department, opportunities with the Poor People's Coalition and the Social Welfare Action Alliance. Through the SW Department opportunities for students to analyze the impact of budget cuts in Monroe County on social services programs and vulnerable populations such as children. Rochester has the 11th highest child poverty rate in the nation.
  2. Perhaps our new/old students could spend a day working in the Village of Brockport, as do U of R's freshmen.
  3. Women's Center (already very active)
  4. Guest Lectures
  5. As an art professor, I see an endless amount of opportunities. see 25
  6. I believe the United Way is trying to develop a new income tax assistance program similar to what the IRS used to offer through the VITA Program. I believe it is called CASH, but I do not any of the specifics. This could serve as an opportunity for accounting majors to serve the community.
  7. We have just begun to discuss this through this project. A good beginning and one that I hope will lead to more planning, more activity, more community/college engagement. We need to put education to work in the solution of people's needs.
  8. Don't know. I do know there are opportunities for such things as internships working for legislators, and projects campus-wide for collecting items for needy at holiday times.
  9. Class size detrimental to these activities. Traditional mode of holding class in a classroom on the campus is detrimental to new initiatives. Student Apathy is probably number one impediment. Untapped opportunities - village of Brockport connection.
  10. See above. Young people have energy and zeal that needs to be tapped in a responsible way. Carpe diem!
  11. I would like to including an activity that requires students to interact with local community leaders or volunteer for a service project; however, I have hesitated to initiate these kinds of assignments in the past because of concerns about managing it with 30-45 students. It also requires coordination with local community leader schedules and projects.

Responses – Professional Staff

  1. Too numerous to count. Will send separate letter. There are many untapped opportunities for technology tie-ins to civic engagement - i.e., online town meetings, polls, surveys, etc.
  2. More out of class required attendance at campus events. If events are planned and announced early enough, then events can be better incorporated into class syllabi.
  3. Overall communication and an awareness campaign through a media blitz.
  4. Maximizing the rich human capital for facilitating such engagement.
  5. In a sense, if "charity begins at home," then perhaps the same can be said of civic engagement. For a large number of our students - activities in the residence hall should be further explored.
  6. Sweden senior center, Nursing home, migrant workers, hospital,
  7. Involvement with the Village of Brockport
  8. Pooling individuals from different backgrounds to work together on an issue
  9. Involving the students in the community in organizing, canvassing and serving in any way needed. If this was a mandatory part of their academic program, it would happen and they might find they like it!
  10. Pick any topic and you will find a need. Single Mom's, the elderly, small business, or the disabled. For each department on campus you could assign a mission for them to tackle. At St. Mary's school each grade level is required to take on a civic obligation. One class sponsors a seeing-eye-dog, the kindergarten sponsors the local food pantry and so on. Each department could easily pick a topic and fulfill a mission. The National Lion's Club focuses on collecting eyeglasses for the poor and elderly. Rotary deals with international students and education. With the talent within our campus, I'm sure we could find an untapped opportunity.
  11. BSG and other student organizations service learning opportunities in Brockport and the surrounding communities
  12. I think we need to be less politically correct and more tolerant in a global sense on this campus. More intelligent debates on both sides of an issue would be stimulating to everyone. Too often only one side of an issue (the liberal one) is acceptable on college campuses. I don't think our role is to "change" students in their views as much as it is to stimulate and challenge them with new viewpoints. They don't have to agree with them.
  13. Outreach with families in need who utilize Brockport Child Care services.
  14. Team up with other area colleges to co-sponsor programs or campaign visits by candidates.
  15. Getting the campus involved in more of Brockport's and Monroe County's issues.
  16. Student consulting projects

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Last Updated 1/14/16