ULM alienates those it needs to survive

ULM Hawkeye

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The University is in dangerous waters. Rarely does an institution manage to isolate all of its potential supporters, but for some reason, this is the policy ULM has decided to adopt.

Four groups of people make up a campus family: students, faculty, alumni and the community. ULM has managed to drive away them all.

Many alumni disassociated themselves from the University because, as many of them will tell you, their degree says “Northeast Louisiana University,” not the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Their college photos show them in NLU Indian t-shirts, not ULM Warhawks clothing.

Maybe its time for them to move on and accept change, but it isn’t that simple. Memories cannot change. Their memories are of a different university, and it will be hard to overcome the strong feelings of the college day nostalgia.

The most vocal in the community are enraged by the natatorium’s potential closure. Many see former soccer coach Stacy Lamb’s departure as ULM trying its hardest to drive the final wedge between Monroe and its university. There are few flags or window displays in the city showing ULM pride. If the university keeps angering the community, it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

Faculty live in constant fear. Fear of budget and program cuts. Fear of losing tenure as others in the system have. Fear of the enormous amount of control looming in the sixth floor of the library, centered around people they were skeptical of to begin with.

And of course there are the students, who are caught in the middle of the raging identity crisis and caught in the middle of a fierce debate over the natatorium. But, surely our administrators will protect us.

Or maybe they’ll just use us like they used top skiers Zack Wordon and Claudio Kostenberger to garner them a national title before effortlessly kicking them to the curb.

The pair carried the water ski team to another national title, the 23rd of the most celebrated program of any kind at the University. How are they rewarded? By being “suspended” and stripped of their scholarships because they missed curfew.

Had there been a previous violation? Yes, a minor one. Were they out past the midnight curfew? Yes, they were out, celebrating with parents after winning the national title and allegedly after getting the permission of the assistant coach.

Luckily for the University, the sanctions don’t take place until the spring, when camera flashes and celebration shows come to an end. After all that is over, then they’ll take away the skiers’ scholarships.

According to the Hawkeye poll, students overwhelmingly support the skiers. Their punishment was excessive and everyone knows it. But rather than do the right thing and support their students, the University did what it does best: alienate people who desperately want to support it.

It’s time the University takes a long look in the mirror and decides who it wants to be. The popular catch-phrase this year has been “Discover ULM.” That slogan is laughable. How can anyone discover ULM when ULM doesn’t even know who it is?

The reelection of Gov. Bobby Jindal, a clear enemy of higher education, should have all universities worried. Without the threat of losing reelection over him, he could attack learning institutions with renewed vigor. It’s a dangerous time for ULM to be floundering the way it is.

An aggressive campaign needs to be launched to show alumni they can love ULM like they loved NLU. Don’t pick fights with community members. Stop playing politics and stand up to Baton Rouge; assure faculty their university has their backs.

Most importantly, do the right thing for your students. Show us you have our backs. A perfect opportunity to do so is by giving back Zack and Claudio’s scholarships.

It’s time ULM starts doing the right thing.