What does the word community mean to you? Does it mean a group of people living in proximity to each other, or is it something more? Shouldn’t the people in a community support and raise each other? Shouln’t they share ideas and goals and dreams? Shouldn’t they network and find others in a community with similar interests so that they can enjoy their passions? Shouldn’t there be things going on in a community every day that draw people from their isolation and stimulate their desire to be productive? Community is about love, and connecting, and about bonding between the entire population. If this bodes true, then the community college is a severe let down.
Community colleges (I’ve attended a few in Southern New Jersey) and specifically Camden County College is nothing more than a glossy train station. Students enter the main campus through congested driveways to attend their classes, then leave quickly once it is time to depart. Those who decide to stay or are laid over have the option of buying overpriced food and magizines to hold them over, or they can communicate with one another, usually discussing the mundane topice that surround them, be it the weather or pop culture.
A train station may not be entirely acurate in describing the layout of the heart of the college’s main campus, the Community Center; try blending that commuter enviroment with a trendy high school cafeteria. There are computers about, of which are completely occupied at any given time by bored students droning their lives away on Myspace.com. There are tables in which like-minded clicks of students socialize, and perhaps work on school work, but card games of any kind (even stratagey card games such as Pokemon or Yu-gi-oh) are completely banned for fear that gambling may occur; supposedly students going to a community college have bags of disposable income that they use in elaborate gambling rings. There are three video game machines, and a frequently used air hockey table that costs a dollar a game (a high price by today’s standards).
That is it. That is the entertainment value of the Communtiy Center for those who dare to stay and kill some time. It is not suprising that at about three in the afternoon, when most classes are said and done, that this gathering place for the community of students looks like a ghost town at high noon.
The Community Center has another component to it; it houses many of the student related services, such as advisors, the bookstore, and of course the Student Government.
The Student Government; the officating body over student events, or I should say the community’s events. If a student was so motivated to stand up and say “I want to organize a club in which fellow students with my interests can get together”, that student would have to go to the Student Government office and put out a request.
I am not embellishing when i say that the secretary in that office has absolutly no people skills. She is cranky and confrontational no matter how pleasent or professional the student dealing with her is. Her boss, Margo Venable is a very capable woman, but she is so bogged down by the charities and events that Camden County College’s board of directors have her working on that anything the students come up with is not only a not a priority, but a burden.
That is what it boils down to, the leadership of the school are business people and know what makes them money. A quality teaching staff, a clean and well constructed school, a Student Government that primarily raises money for various causes, and other things like these all make the school look really good. The rest of their money making venture is supplied by what a Community College is, a cheap place for getting universal credits out of the way. People with jobs or kids or just people who cannot yet afford a University all commute here for the cheap and convenient classes and then go home.
The students who still want to have some sort of traditional college experience will simply have to wait until they move on to a Univercity, because fun things for studnts to do are not cost effective. They require paid advisors to overlook the club or event, plus a budget for expenses, and a room for event use (which cannot be used for classes, and do not produce extra revenue). Events take planning also, and paperwork to be filled out by faculty that has other things to do. The events that the school does plan are bi-annual events that cost 20,000 dollars a peice. They are forgotten by the students the next day, but why take the time to plan daily things for the students to do when you can get it all done in one day and move on to other matters.
I will tell you why; there are hundreds of apathetic and lost 18 to 22 year olds going to this school, still in that psycological phase in which they feel like they don’t know what they want to do with their life. Many are shy or disassociated but still have hobbies and interests; these clubs can introduce them to friends that they may have for the rest of their life. Friends can be the important driving force that motivates these students to do great things, such as write a book or quit drinking and drugs or just work hard on their studies and accomplish their goals.
There are younger students going to this school who need something to do between campus and mabye a reason to stay after and add some flavor to this college. If they made it this far they have to have something driving them, so why not do something creative with all that juicy potential. Why not make the college a fun alternative to partying or Myspace? Its possible, and if the school makes a crative whole hearted effort, the results will be self replicating, semester after semester.
Unfortunatly, the people with the power know what their best interests are, and they have their own plans for their resources. As an older student who went through hard times in his early college carrer and is seeing his past come alive in his fellow students every semester, I wish there was some way to open stubborn eyes.
B-Film Appreciation Society, founder
Genshiken (Society for the study of modern visual arts), founder