By Joshua Patton
Two months before I started my education at DCCC, my father died. I was a wreck. I couldn’t cope, to the point that I quit my job and became reclusive.
But despite my mourning, I decided to start my education anyway. The only way to climb out of my self-pity was to press forward.
It wasn’t easy for me. My mind was still clouded with grief. The course work kept me occupied, but it still wasn’t enough. Over time however, I was lucky enough to find a system of support, due in no small part to DCCC.
If not for the willingness of faculty and staff to help me, and some amazing professors I have met along the way, I wouldn’t have continued my higher education.
Today, it’s not an exaggeration to say that DCCC is my second home. I spend four days of every week here: I study, I eat lunch, I laugh and socialize.
My days are spent working alongside friends and students that make my experience here special.
But over the past two years, something has changed. More and more, I am feeling disconnected from the school, and I’ve finally come to realize the truth.
I am no longer a student here, I am a customer.
During this semester, there was a problem with my financial aid. I didn’t think it would be a big issue, since most problems can be solved online, but although I knew there was an error, I didn’t know what that error was.
I started by speaking with someone at the work-study office. After talking to the staff there for a short while, we still couldn’t figure out the problem. But rather than following through, or taking the extra step to help me, I was told to head to Enrollment Central.
For anyone who hasn’t visited Enrollment Central, it isn’t the best experience you could have.
Entering your phone number, waiting to be announced, and heading to a window to speak to someone behind what appears to be bulletproof glass isn’t the most personal experience one could have. In fact, it goes beyond mere appearances. It’s dehumanizing.
The personal touch of dealing with someone face-to-face, or working through a problem together is all but forgotten to me.
This is not to say that DCCC has lost its ability to effectively prepare its students for careers or four year universities, but it has lost the human spirit that has made it great through my years here.
Unfortunately, the problem wasn’t solved there. I was rerouted yet again to the financial aid office, which, on this day, happened to be in the learning commons as part of late registration.
After signing in, and forming a queue for the third time that day, I finally spoke to someone that worked through the problem with me.
Even then, however, I felt distant. I was spoken to with a tone of cold condescension.
I explained my problem, and was asked when I had filled out my FASFA form. After telling him that I had completed it in December he scoffed, “a month after it was due.”
I was irritated.
Even though we had worked through the problem, I left with a bitter taste in my mouth. It had taken three and a half hours with three different staff members to figure out a single problem, and I was treated with disdain the whole way through.
Still, I have known numerous other students that have faced hardships, and sought out counselors and professors to confide in. And I am happy to say that they have found faculty to help them through their tough times.
But I can’t help but feel disconnected from the staff when I am frustratingly rerouted through three departments to fix a single problem.
Often, the burden falls to the student to deal with staff that is happier to make it someone else’s problem, rather than communicate with other departments, or even with the students themselves to solve it.
I have never been a person that asks to have his hand held through life. Despite this, it is always beneficial to deal with someone that knows you, or that will take the time to work through a problem with you, just as a tutor or mentor would.
There are many professors here that still embody this role. Some have even gone out of their way to speak with their students if they recognize a problem they are having, professionally or personally. And for this, I am eternally grateful.
The faculty at DCCC is one that I still find to be caring, considerate, and conscientious in everything that they do. Some have so much passion for the students that they stretch themselves past the point of exertion.
The spirit at DCCC isn’t dead yet, but there continues to be a focus on the bottom line over students. I cannot say that this is completely unwarranted or irrational, but what decision makers need to realize is that an educational experience focused on its dollars rather than its people will never fully thrive.
Contact Joshua Patton at firstname.lastname@example.org