This year, the buzzword at the local university is “retention.” What it amounts to for faculty and staff is, essentially, to do anything possible to keep students in school. Act as their friend or their counselor. Give them any way you can to pass courses. Ensure that they get instant positive feedback.
Along with this comes a blizzard of brand-new acronyms, a program to train faculty as emergency counselors and psychologists [because the three new counselors the administration hired are so far behind that they’ll never get through the caseload of students], and the very clear message that university faculty members are responsible for getting students through in five years or less, faculty and no one else.
Since most entering students have never really had to work hard to learn and study, they’re not really prepared for college-level work, and it often seems like they can’t wait to get out of class and return to their smart-phones and ear-buds.
And that doesn’t include the facts that the local university is located in a culture where more than half the students take off two years for a Church mission, where women are pressured to marry and have children young, and where the majority of students feel “crushed,” if they get a grade below an “A” even when they don’t do the work. That doesn’t take into account that roughly half of the students are working part-time or full-time because families averaging five children spaced close together can almost never provide anywhere close to the funds necessary for college.
Then add to that the fact that many classes are taught by underpaid adjuncts who are juggling other jobs and commitments, and that the administrative loads dumped on full-time teaching faculty continue to increase and result in longer and longer hours providing information and reports to administrators that have very little to do with teaching.
And, of course, it’s absolutely taboo for a faculty member to even hint at asking whether some of these students should even be in college or whether the university is doing those students any favors by trying to keep them in classes as long as possible.
The truly miraculous aspect of it all is that so many faculty members struggle to do their best for students who are seldom grateful and an administration that’s preoccupied with numbers and thinks that excellence can be quantified by retention numbers.