Scholar Privilege?

DISCLAIMER: Two members of The Jambar’s editorial team are University Scholars. The author of this editorial is not a member of the Honors or Scholars programs.

The Scholars are a little entitled, aren’t they?

With a name like “The University Scholars,” how could they not? They live — cost free thanks to their full-ride scholarships — in Cafaro House, which sits atop a hill, providing the perfect vantage point for them to look down upon the rest of the slithering mass of students sharing their university.

And now they’re whining because the university is suggesting shrinking their little club by cutting the full-ride scholarships awarded yearly from 40 down to 8 or 9, instead using that money to offer more scholarships to more students.

Half of the above is true. Half is very false.

The university is enacting this plan to redistribute the scholarship money to bring in more students, but the Scholars aren’t the entitled crybabies that some students would make them out to be.

Following the publication of an article detailing the changes coming to the Scholars program in Tuesday’s Jambar, the comment section on the article lit up with individuals suggesting the Scholars had a sense of entitlement fueling their resistance to the coming changes.

While there is certainly entitlement among some of the Scholars — as there is within any group of people — entitlement isn’t fueling their distress over the changes. None of the changes will actually affect them. No one is losing their full ride; no one is losing money.

So why do they care?

As it seems, contrary to the view that they’re money grubbing privileged college kids, the Scholars care about Youngstown State University and its future. This isn’t a biased endorsement of the group; it’s a reasoned guess based on past actions of Scholars who no longer have a personal stake in the program — namely the alumni.

Josh Hiznay, the president of the Scholar Alumni organization, shared the views of past Scholars with the Jambar. “With respect to the changes made to the Scholar Program, we are saddened and disappointed. The Scholar program was an investment in YSU and it achieved its goal of attracting and keeping very talented students at the university for over two decades.  The program’s values of community, excellence and giving back had a substantial impact on all of us.  Our love for YSU energized us to assume leadership roles on campus and donate back after we graduated. As a group, the Scholars have more people that donate back to YSU than any other group.
“Many scholar alumni also continue to give back by volunteering to help current YSU students. Alumni are invested in this scholarly community, so it was especially shocking that alumni feedback about proposed changes was not sought,” Hiznay said. “Until the details for the Honors College are finalized, we won’t know what role, if any, the Scholar Alumni will have, but we remain committed to current and future YSU students.”

One of the most prevalent responses to the changes that current and former Scholars have is that had they not been offered a full ride — which includes room and board for those unfamiliar with the term — they would have certainly attended another college.

While obviously this reasoning isn’t exactly full of Penguin Pride, it does ring true. How many students — when given the chance to attend a variety of universities, each wooing them with promises of scholarships — would choose to stay near home instead of venturing off to have that college experience movies and TV have promised us we’d have? Not likely many. For many of those students, the entire reason they stayed in the Valley is thanks to YSU’s Scholars program and its offer of room and board on top of full tuition payment.

All of this said, it doesn’t necessarily mean the current or former Scholars are correct in their arguments. It may very well be that the expanded Honors College is a huge success and accomplishes its goal of bolstering enrollment. It may spread available scholarship funds to many quality students; it may attract out of region students; it may bolster retention and graduation rates, attracting more state funding. For the good of the university, we certainly hope it does.
Unfortunately, the Scholars’ arguments don’t really even matter at this point, as the changes are essentially already in the process of implementation.

What does matter is the perception of this particularly influential group of students.

The way Scholars are perceived on campus should be fair. The idea that this group is entitled because they were awarded scholarships is petty and sad. The idea that they’re entitled because they are fighting for an institution they believe in, despite the fact that they ultimately would not benefit or be harmed by the changes, is baseless.

The Scholars make up half of the Student Government Association’s Executive Committee. They are involved and invested in YSU because they can be. They don’t necessarily need to work an additional 30 hours a week at Uptown Pizza to make ends meet while they’re in school. Call that privileged, but the university fares better from 160 heavily-involved students than from a sea of students who, despite having tuition scholarships, still need to spend their non-class time working off-campus jobs to afford their rent and their living expenses.

Like them or hate them, they’re an important and necessary part of YSU’s campus and culture.

That being said, the current Scholars should try to help make the Honors College the program a definitive success because, for better or worse, this change will not be stopped. Influential as they are, their attitudes and actions once the changes are fully implemented will impact the success of this program.

There are two roads to travel for current and former Scholars: throw their support in by making the Honors College the most enticing Honors program possible to help bring more students to the university or be bitter and resentful towards the university during a time of major transformations and conflicts.

We think we know what they will do.

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