Dear President Gann and The CMC Board of Directors,
Where to begin . . .
Tonight, I received my annual Phonite call. Perhaps surprisingly, I look forward to this call all year long because I get to pester the unsuspecting sophomore who draws my name about life on campus, offer unsolicited advice, and reward her patience with a donation large enough to give them a bonus, even though I can't afford it. Yes, all, I am that alumna. I don't have deep pockets, but I like to think the proportion of my heart left at Claremont McKenna College makes up for that.
The lucky phoniter opened with the newest news that CMC's Board had recently approved increasing the student body by 60 students.
Wow, did this girl choose the wrong news.
Non-alum readers, 60 students might sound like a drop in the keg bucket - but for my little 1000 student college, it's significant.
Why is it so significant, you ask? Because to accommodate 60 students, CMC will need a new dorm.
The campus, as small as our student body, doesn't have much room for growth - so where are the powers that be considering planting the new dorm?
IN BADGLEY GARDEN.
Yes, Badgley Garden, where the class of 2001 enjoyed its first dry week toga party. Badgley Garden, where we celebrated the visit of the real Rudy by watching the reel Rudy on a cold, damp night. Badgley Garden, where the annual Luau gives Stags and Athenas the chance to wear the beach garb they wear anyway, but for a reason. Badgley Garden, from which countless classes have bid a fond farewell to their beloved alma mater.
Some background: Back when I was a senior, I served as the student representative on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. I came to know the Board of Governors at the time fairly well and found them to be dedicated, intelligent folks, more of whom were alums than you'd be likely to find on most governing boards. During that process, the topic of increasing student body size came up and led to many a contentious discussion. I was on the "no" side of the increase debate - and vehemently so.
It seemed to me then, as it seems to me now, that increasing the CMC student body is tied to a desire to boost CMC's position in the arbitrary, foolish US News & World Report rankings.
President Gann mentioned frequently during those Strategic Plan discussions that CMC's small size was one of the main reasons cited by students choosing to transfer from CMC to other institutions. Students who depart CMC prior to graduation become part of the school's attrition rate. High attrition rates get you dinged by US News. Get dinged in enough categories and your numbers tumble.
Except that retention/attrition rates do not a great college make. Lat time I checked, CMC's retention rate was in the mid to upper 80s. So why should the 85% or so of CMC students who chose a small college, have come to appreciate a small college, be penalized by the need to appease the 15% who exercise their right to move on to find a better match? Hell, half of marriages end in divorce, so CMC's doing alright, right?
Oh, and I'm not the only one who thinks that playing to US News is a bad way to run a railroad.
But I'm not there anymore. I'm not on the Board of Governors, faculty, or administration of the college. And while I'm a slightly-more-engaged-than-most alumna, I'm no where near as involved as others. So fine, you, President Gann and the Board, feel you need to increase the student body by 60 students, costing the college millions in construction costs to absorb the new bodies. Okay, for the sake of discussion, I'll assume you've made the right decision.
But must you go after our garden?
President Gann warned, and rightly so, that sometimes alumni can become so attached to a physical aspect of a campus that they jeopardize the natural growth and evolution of an institution. Emotional attachment is understandable, but it isn't always appropriate.
I think she was right on that. I was initially skeptical of the "pods" constructed on each North Quad dorm. But they are an architecturally natural extension of existing structures and didn't drastically alter the feel or look of North Quad.
However, I think there are limited situations in which alumni attachment to a physical aspect of campus is warranted. This is one of those times.
Please, don't move a single stone from that Garden. Mid Quad needs its open space. And many of us need our memories to remain attached to a physical space - one that, unlike dorms or dining halls, won't ever really need to be updated to remain useful.
Thank you for considering leaving Badgley Garden put. And thanks in advance for stopping this student body increase nonsense.
If I'd wanted to go to something Pomona or Berkeley sized, I would have, and could have, gone to Pomona or Berkeley.