This is a place where the student has always come first. If a student has needed a course to graduate, we have offered it without blinking an eye. If a group of students has an interest or a passion that they want to pursue, we have offered small, senior-level courses where they could explore that topic. If just one student has an idea they’ve wanted to explore, faculty have taken on independent studies or research projects, for which they don’t get paid, just so they can mentor the student through that exploration. At Lewis, it has always been “student first”. Always.
Faculty have been the ones primarily responsible for carrying out that ethos. We could have gone to bigger, research-focused universities where we’d be required to teach maybe just two courses per year. We could have led comfortable lives working with grad students on exciting research projects, helping those students write papers on which our names would appear, and then traveling to exciting destinations to present those papers. We could have had that life and been quite happy. Instead, the call to help people propelled us into quite a different world, one in which we teach at least eight courses per year, and sometimes up to twenty, and then we get questioned about why we had to teach that many. We explain difficult concepts so that others may understand what has heretofore perplexed them, so they can go on to seize opportunities that inspire them. Faculty have made Lewis a student haven, something unique and to be cherished and celebrated. That’s what Lewis has always been.
Lewis University is not a place – and must never become an institution – where preoccupation with financial bottom lines causes course sizes to balloon, low-enrolled special-interest courses to become unicorns, and graduation requirements left unattainable or compromised in quality all in the interest of meeting transitory financial targets. The student experience must be protected above all else. Reasonable cuts can and should be made when circumstances call for it. Once you start inconveniencing students, turn away, because you’re going too far.
Faculty, it is up to you to protect what we value. Doing so well requires that we respect each other. Don’t seek to silence voices because you fear or disagree with them. Don’t cast aspersions to gain a competitive advantage, dismiss the contributions of others who have helped you get where you are, or form cliques that seek to exclude and empower a few. Don’t participate in exercises that seek to over-regulate us, that provide additional levers by which we can be controlled and diverted from our responsibility to protect and preserve what students experience here. Don’t settle for systems that seek to make us more vertical and less flat, where the sets of people with a voice and those who care become mutually exclusive. We must be united in our belief that Lewis is Lewis because we’ve made it so. We’ve created a place where students learn, grow, and celebrate what inspires them. It is up to us to keep it that way.