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I like to think that the student voice is important.  It’s not.  I like to think that by signing our letters of matriculation to Villanova University, we are entering into a four-year relationship where our voices will be heard, and answered, quite often.  We like to talk, okay?

But the talking has seemed pretty one-sided lately.  With the jolting announcement of the proposed online B.A. program, many students are questioning that commitment.  Why?  Because the proposal seemed to come out of nowhere.  One day, we were walking happily along the quad, thinking that we had a good relationship with Villanova, only to be halted abruptly by a strange whisper.

What’s that?  An online B.A. program?  Girlfriend, you’re crazy!  I’ve never heard of that before.  I mean, it’s one thing if a couple of flower boxes are being dropped in front of Sullivan, but it’s a whole different question if the student body is about to drastically change.  Can’t a woman get a little consultation first?  Villanova wouldn’t hide something like this from me, right?  Well, apparently it would.  A couple of weeks ago, the rumor mill started grinding when the faculty congresses held two forums.

But the majority of student’s ears were only reached after Caroline Goldstein’s article on the program was published in The Villanovan on March 21. For most students, this was the first time they’d even heard of the idea.

The amount of communication between the administration and students has been depressingly low.  I perked up a little when I got the email from the vice president of Academic Affairs on March 22.  At last, I thought, they’re talking to us! The Administration remembers our existence!  The stonewalling has finally ended; Villanova still loves us!

They still loved us until I read the email. It was as if our name had been slapped onto the greeting—a strained act of forced public acknowledgment—and then we were immediately ushered into the corner.  The only name I saw mentioned again was faculty.  Granted, faculty didn’t get much.  From what I can garner off the one-inch, backwater video recordings of the faculty congress, they’re feeling a little left out as well.  But at least they got something.  A chance to express some questions, doubts, uncertainties.  And a living, breathing voice to answer them.

We have gotten one email.  Moreover, an email where the phrase “student dialogue” was glaringly absent.  Is anyone else getting a third-wheel vibe here?  Shouldn’t we, the students, the population most obviously impacted by this, be talking about this with you? Can University administration tackle such a large change in such a short span of time?

Well, we’re not really sure.  Because you haven’t talked to us.  Or answered any of our questions.  Or held any forums.  Not with us, at least.  Which explains our mounting anxiety and the sudden influx of ulcers going around.

For one thing, there’s the scale of the project.  It’d be simple if we were talking about a little cosmetic change here.  You know what Villanova, you’re looking kind of droopy lately.  I think it’s time you got a new look—something fresh, bold, edgy.  Don’t you want to be top-of-the-line?  I mean, really, you’re still sticking solely to traditional undergraduate programs?  That’s like ’90s material right there.

Why don’t we add a few online-degree programs?  You know, the ones they do over computers.  You remember what a computer is, right?  That’s it honey, I can feel you evolving out of Grandma-mode already.

Nobody wants to be stuck in Grandma-mode.  Especially not a university.  And especially not at a time when the competition’s crossed the cut-throat threshold and the belt’s had to be notched in a few times already.  But this isn’t a quick style change here.  We aren’t trading in a pair of shoes or refreshing a dated hairstyle.  This is a full-blown body makeover.

The online B.A. initiative could significantly alter the Villanovan student body.  As the faculty were informed at the March 12 Faculty Congress forum, “online graduates could potentially make up 20 percent of Villanova’s alumni base within 10 years.”

Let’s say this plan reaches its full potential.  That means that one in five Villanova graduates would receive their degrees online.  Within a decade.    The entire face of Villanova would be transformed.  Permanently.  Which explains our concern.  Not because we are afraid of change.  But because we are afraid of botching that change.  Of moving so fast that before we know it, the plastic surgeon’s chiseled us into a real-life Snooki.  “But what happened to Miranda Kerr?” we ask.  “You promised that I would look like her, so why do I look so cheap and fake and plasticky?  Wait, this is permanent?  Reverse!  Reverse!  Please, put me back in Grandma-mode, anything but this!”

We are not a group of happy campers.  What was supposed to be an intimate fireside conversation has gone all wrong, and everyone’s feeling a little singed.  Howling has erupted on the feedback page to the faculty forums, on the student Facebook page against the initiative and on the online petition to suspend the program.  As of Easter, the Facebook page had 1,600 members and the online petition had close to 400 signatures.  That’s a lot of howling going on, have you heard our voices yet?

We would like to talk,  Administration.  An online Villanova degree program, if carefully planned, thoroughly prepared and appropriately executed, could greatly improve the face of the University.  But we have a lot of questions first.  And a lot of anxieties that should be discussed.  Not only by the administration, or the faculty or the students.  But by all of us.  Together.  Before any major decisions are made.  As a real community.

Generally, when we’re not feeling singed, we’re a very friendly bunch.  We like our coffees bold and our tempers mild.  If you bring the coffee, we’ll bring the donuts.  So please, let’s get talking.

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