It seems like each day, the news brings chilling tales of new acts of irrational, uneducated and misguided oppression led by our freshly-elected government officials. For students, it might be tempting to dive headfirst into classwork in an effort to distract ourselves from the horrors of the country in its current state, with some fields of study making this easier than others.
However, the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and the more recent attack on the rights of transgender students mean the nasty, divisive political antics characterizing present day Washington D.C. are well on their way from the capital to campuses nationwide. Having infiltrated the world of education, the post-truth Trump administration’s world of “alternative facts” is on a collision course with its direct antithesis: education and the pursuit of knowledge.
This unfortunately comes at a time when the world of education is already facing its fair share of troubles. With the cost of education becoming an increasing burden on students who often wind up ridden with debt, a future in the hands of the likes of Betsy DeVos and the minds behind the revocation of legislature protecting trans students feels bleaker and bleaker.
Students who are accustomed to hardship already know what this could mean. Those of us dependent on federal loans and grants, a majority of The Campanil staff, would be faced with a choice between extracurriculars and full-time jobs, as well as couch-surfing and transferring as potential ways of continuing our education if federal financial aid is cut or changed. This would mean giving up positions and activities that have attracted awards and recognition for both us and the schools we represent.
Private liberal arts schools, such as Mills, are in no position to be facing a decrease in recognition or enrollment. As academic trends towards STEM fields and away from humanities and social sciences, schools such as ours already face an uncertain future. It lies in the hands of educators, students and alumnae who must fight against all odds to exemplify and perpetuate the value of the education and discourse that help shape us at these institutions.
However, as anyone acclimated to the academic world knows, students and faculty are just one small part, with administration and finances sharing a large portion of the stage. We have already reached a point at which something must be done about the financial burden and general angst placed on students, particularly at liberal arts schools. At Mills, this could, and needs to, include better means of communication and education through the financial aid and student accounts offices. This could include workshops and counselling to educate students about the financial burdens we’re taking on, how we can alleviate them, and what we can expect in the near and distant future, an area that remains quite ambiguous for many until an abrupt, frightening email comes from the M Center all too late. These seemingly small, individual, institutional flaws are only going to be magnified by an antagonistic political climate.
As students, most of us millennials, we already have a pretty good idea of what we’ll need to do to finish our educations and pursue our careers: whatever it takes. Despite an administration demonstrably adverse to the concepts of education and knowledge, this is a powerful force. At schools such as Mills, we’re empowered by staff, faculty and the general culture of our campus to maximize our potential, even in the face of adversity. Adversity that originates at the federal level, however, such as that faced by trans students and anyone dependent on financial aid, needs to be accounted for and helped by institutions in their entirety, not just by students and faculty.