Letters from readers: 1/20/2016

 

Bailey Library

Another take on safety

Lately, it’s been more difficult to re-produce the friendly touch of earlier days at WCC. We’ve gotten more bureaucratic even within our own interpersonal connections. We’ve lost some of our spirit. And we’ve forgotten that this spirit is what keeps us safe and makes learning possible. If a Boeing 747 falls out of the sky and hits the college, people will die. Yes, an anti- aircraft installation may have shot it down, but….

Safety, in our line of work, depends upon our relatedness to students, not a commodity like extra divisions for the Army, simply because relatedness is so very complicated. Our staff’s ability to be helpful, understanding, resourceful, compassionate and timely has kept our college safe. That, and the perceived empowerment that students feel. People who feel accepted, understood, and valued do not feel like killing someone. Yes, this won’t stop the airplane from falling, or the invasion of the Moon People. Our job is to enhance enlightenment, not to promote force.

The challenge of engaging students on the college campus is an old one, partly addressed in many colleges by separating the roles of special people while giving them a free run of the campus. In medieval times, these people were called Proctors. They were deemed officers of the college and reported to the dean of students. And here is the kicker: they had open access to other members of the college hierarchy and their advice was frequently followed, be it a small student loan, a ride home, a square meal, a listening ear…. They had a discretionary fund for helping students immediately without consultations. In the movies, this role is often played by a Father O’Brian. Elsewhere, it is played by Proctor Moore. Give students more attention outside of the internal bureaucracy.

Horse breeders have learned the difference between breaking a horse and gentling a horse. The Canadian Mounties favor gentling their horses. Creating a caring community is our best chance for safety and one with a long proven track record.

 

Hal R. Weidner

WCC emeritus instructor

Ann Arbor

 

 

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