By Jai-Ryung (Jenny) Lee
“Welcome Home.” Coming in as a freshman, these words seemed to come at me from all sides during my first few weeks at Furman. Starting with the banner stretched above the main entrance to the speeches that used the phrase as a tagline during convocation, there seemed to be a silent force, warping and slowly transforming my preconceived notion of home — where it was, what it was, how I related to it. “No,” the phrase seemed to say, “your home is no longer, well, home. Furman is your new home.” In my experience, most students have accepted this invitation and worked to make Furman their new home.
But every relationship — even abstract, figurative relationships like the relationship between a university and its students — requires reciprocation. It’s not only about students changing where home is for them. Furman has to play a part and take us in and fulfill its responsibility to us as residents.
What does Furman’s role in the student-campus relationship look like on campus? The university recently announced the building of a sidewalk to run from the Vinings to campus, the stated goal of which is to give international students who live in the Vinings but do not own a vehicle a better, safer way to travel to campus. This is how Furman takes students in as residents, a clear example of the optimum student-campus relationship.
One area in which the university should work to be more sensitive to the needs of students is in the completion of campus maintenance. When the loud sound of trash disposal, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers interrupts students’ classes and sleeping schedules, how can students feel at peace in their new “home?” Perhaps we need to take a step back and determine which we prioritize more — students’ well-being or campus maintenance? There can easily be a harmonious compromise, one that recognizes there are 24 hours during the day, some of which students need to rest, concentrate, and study, and others during which necessary maintenance tasks can occur.
The same goes for the university’s policy regarding holidays. With the exception of breaks that happen between semesters, Furman does not require its residents to leave campus during holidays like Thanksgiving and Spring Break. Through this policy, Furman acknowledges that some students do not have family nearby to spend the holidays with and/or would prefer to stay on campus, whatever the reason. However, during the holidays, most of the campus shuts down. Must some centers and programs that may be critical for students’ well being, such as the infirmary and shuttle service, also be closed during these holidays? Considering that most students who stay on campus are international students that rely on these services, we should recognize who stays on campus and what services they still need. In this situation, is there not some happy compromise in which Furman closes some services, but continues to provide others?
Perhaps these problems are the result of a lack of communication between the students and administrators. There is no clear medium for students to express their concerns, to request that the campus be more welcoming and more responsive to their needs. If the university is not making the effort to understand what the students need, and perhaps even who the students are, how are students expected to call Furman “home?”
There are many different kinds of homes. Some are full of tension, and some are relaxing and comforting. Furman has the potential to become the latter for students, but there must be a clear way to communicate between students and administrators for Furman to become “home” for students during their pursuit of education and excellence at Furman.