When We Stop Improving and Accept Status Quo

Ben Segall ’20

Contributing Writer

I began this opinion piece one afternoon last semester as a way of expressing my frustration towards a series of teachers who, over my Trinity career, have been the bane of many students’ existence. Ultimately, I am a senior, soon I will leave this college and like many others, what happens here will cease to have the same personal meaning it once did. Nevertheless, like most Trinity students, I see that there is no shortage of obvious problems which need to be addressed if this institution is going to survive going forward. Universities in the U.S. receive more criticism with every passing year; part of that debate concerns the price of college admission, and another concerns the overall quality. In many ways, I love Trinity, I know that at the very least I will owe a debt of gratitude to many selfless professors who took the time to help me prepare for my career. That is why we go to college after all, to pursue a career with devotion, capability, and resilience. Unfortunately, I am also acutely aware of a minority at this university.

A small group of professors, who any student, regardless of background, could identify, do not care one bit about their image or efficiency as educators. If you ask most students at Trinity why we fill out tedious course evaluations in midst of finals-season semester after semester, they would tell you that we complete those sheets to better the experience of students to come, and so that professors might be humbled by flaws which they are not in a position to realize on their own. The frustration that initially led me to write this article did not come from the shortcomings of one professor, rather the fact that everyone who had taken that professor’s class previously, pointed out the exact problems which I was facing at the time. What is the purpose of such a relevant perspective, if no one actually holds the responsible party to account? Better still, how will this college grow in a way that will come to justify the immense personal and financial cost to its students?

I do not claim to fully understand the daily or yearly happenings behind the scenes at Trinity, but at the same time I cannot help but feel that students and professors alike are becoming more apathetic to the concept of improving this institution. In any case, there are many people here, who feel that there has not been an appropriate level due diligence or improvement to this school over time. Professors are often in an even better position to relay that fact than any student. Even the idea of maintaining a “status quo” will eventually destroy this college’s credibility if basic problems aren’t dealt with.

In the Chinese language, the word ‘crisis’ is formed by conjoining the character for “danger” with the character for “opportunity.” There is no doubt in my mind that more people are alienated from the U.S. college system every year; the “danger” involved with that alienation, is the gradual discrediting and defunding of an entire national educational system. The only thing that will make this school better in its various capacities is the fear of crisis and failure; that is as true for professors here, as it is for Psi U or Chartwells. Without any sense of competition, or even the possibility of failure and consequences, even the most well-intentioned people will stagnate, and cease to improve. Aside from our framing of individual problems, there needs to be a yearly ebb and flow of criticism and praise to the people and departments who deserve it. Even more so, there needs to be a visible sense and function to the criticism and praise we do offer, in other words, our ideas as a mass of students and teachers need to precipitate actual, visible change.

Regardless of how I, or others feel, it is clear that education in the U.S. is facing a crisis of identity. Either we will rise to the opportunity of bettering our alma mater, or our accomplishments here will lose their value and credibility. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to be critical, but it is our responsibility to ensure that the incoming freshmen of the next decade do not experience the exact same problems, especially if they face them for a higher price than we once did.