by Katie Maxwell
I am writing in response to Joshua Ritchey’s guest commentary about our administration’s support of the Webster University chess team.
Ritchey is correct in saying the university is struggling with low enrollment and budget cuts. He is also correct in saying our chess team increases publicity for the university. Their recent victory was featured in The New York Times, on National Public Radio and they have been featured on local news stations multiple times, including when coach Susan Polgar schooled some Fox News reporters in a street game of chess. In fact, their victories have brought Webster a significant amount in free advertising that we literally could not afford to buy. It seems to me that bringing the chess team to Webster was actually a very fiscally responsible decision because enrollment is boosted by increasing name recognition and enhancing our university’s reputation.
Budget cuts are daunting, but criticizing the president and provost for supporting our chess team is off topic and out of line. Each student has personal experiences they can tie into Ritchey’s piece, but we need to think of the big picture and work together. Nothing gets solved by pitting students against the administration, or their fellow students. Yes, the chess team is highly successful and they bring a lot of publicity to Webster. However, they are also students — transfer students, many international students — who are hearing from the guest commentary that they are an “irresponsible allocation of money” and supporting them is “deceptive, unjustifiably founded, illogical and a waste of university financial resources.” Is this how we respond to our fellow students’ success? That’s not the Webster community I know. As a member of the Student Government Association, I want these students to know their peers are proud of them. These are Webster students, and they are national champions.
I also take personal issue with the commentator’s statements saying the president doesn’t “really care about student involvement and success” because she doesn’t attend events “within driving or walking distance.” This is absolutely untrue, as are the examples Ritchey invokes. In the future, I’d recommend The Journal have the opinions pieces go through a more rigorous fact checking process, and correct any instances of misinformation prior to being published.
President Elizabeth Stroble did attend the recent debate tournament at Webster. In fact, she was a keynote speaker at Pi Kappa Delta’s 100th anniversary tournament. When our baseball team returned from the NCAA Division III World Series, she met them at the airport and celebrated their success by focusing on the players in the Webster Groves Fourth of July parade, among other celebrations. She does attend regular season athletic events. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook if you want proof.
No other university has a president as dedicated to students and all aspects of student life as President Stroble. She and the provost were involved in Humans vs. Zombies last year. She was the first Webster president to attend Drag Ball, our second-largest event only after commencement. She has supported students at the annual Sustainability Conference, Admitted Student Day, New Student Orientation and the annual Human Rights Conference. And I can say, as a four-time Delegates’ Agenda presenter, Stroble truly cares about students and collaborates with us to address our concerns.
There are other avenues of resolving concerns expressed in Ritchey’s piece. There are steps we as students can take. We need to increase student support of various groups and recognize each other’s successes. I encourage students to contact Student Government Association when they have causes of concern, because we are here to advocate for students and serve as the liaison between the student body and the administration.
The university will have to adjust to low enrollment and budget cuts. That doesn’t mean students should turn on each other and attack their peers’ success. We’re proud of our students, whether they play chess or volleyball, play soccer or Quidditch, debate or play baseball. We support every team at Webster. Go Gorloks!
Editors Note: Ritchey’s criticism concerning the NCAA Division III Baseball World Series was that President Stroble didn’t attend the event, not that she didn’t recognize their accomplishment.