The Great Divide

In his second editorial, Glenn Dunlea discusses the divide between staff and student on campus.

I came to UCC from a class of 21. There was one sixth year class, and 250 students in the entire school. There was double that in my first lecture when I sat down to begin my college education. To add to that, the support network I had built up over the past six years was gone. There were no teachers for me to stop and chat to. Nobody for me to turn to and ask how they were. It wasn’t that I was alone; I had several great friends to begin college life with, but there was something missing, and now, at the beginning of my second year in UCC, I find that it still hasn’t been replaced.

The divide between UCC’s staff and its students is a gargantuan one. There are a variety of different reasons for this, and I do wish to say before I go on that I mean no slight upon anyone working in UCC when I say what I do. But there is something lacking, and more often then not a mindset and attitude present that is detrimental to college life.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a meeting with several UCC staff members to voice my opinion on proposed plans for the development of aspects of the university. There were other students present from across every faculty of the college, equally as ready to voice their thoughts and opinions. During the course of the meeting the question was proposed that surely there wouldn’t be a need for as much support staff when students can just turn to their lecturers.

When I heard this I had to stop for a moment to think. Lecturers are a funny breed. More often than not they are some of the most genuine and helpful people you could ever hope to meet, and I must confess that I have been fortunate enough to only ever encounter this kind of person during the course of my third level education thus far. But we have all heard the horror stories. Stories of the lecturers that simply can’t stand their students, that are so deadset in their ways that there is no room for development, for independent thinking; the basic principles of what a college education should be. These people are unapproachable, and inhibit personal and intellectual development.

And that is what I said. Straight out. While all of the other students around the table nodded in agreement, the staff members appeared shocked to hear that this was the case, that a student couldn’t approach their lecturer simply because they didn’t want anything to do with them. And that in itself wasn’t surprising! That these people weren’t aware of the divide between student and teacher! It was just another prime example of not only the divide between staff and students in UCC, but also the divide between the staff themselves!

Everything is departmentalised; there is a separate office for everything. We often hear of students being sent from office to office to office to get something sorted, but no-one can agree on where is best to get it done. As the meeting ended and we wrapped things up, it was heartening to see that what we the students had said was being taken on board, and providing serious food for thought.

As I walked across campus on my way to a class, two figures I recognised as lecturers passed by me. As they did I couldn’t help but over hear a snippet of their conversation. “I much prefer it during the holidays. I hate it when the throngs start coming back”. I could only laugh.

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