Chancellor’s letter sends condescending message

Dear Chancellor Rita Cheng:


I am writing this open letter in response to the wildly inappropriate, presumptuous and condescending letter I received in my mail box yesterday addressed to my Parent/Caregiver regarding the upcoming non-university events “Polar Bear” and “Puck Finch”.

Clearly this letter was sent to my home under the erroneous assumption that my permanent address is synonymous with my parents’ address.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I am a married, independent adult. My permanent address reflects the home for which my husband and I carry a lease and pay rent and bills. I have been a resident of Carbondale for more than six years. I have been of legal drinking age longer than you have been chancellor of this institution.

If you are wondering why my parents’ addresses are not on record at this university, I know I am not alone in saying that it is because my personal family situation is no business of the university or the administration unless I choose to make it so.

Now my question to you is: How out of touch are you with your own undergraduate population to feel that such a letter addressed to the parents of legal adults is appropriate in any way?

Initially, I was going to disregard this letter. I felt that it came from a place of concern and caring and that it offered sound and reasonable advice for drinking responsibly. However, the more I read over it, the more I realized that it speaks volumes about your own opinion of your student body.

Within the last academic year you have referred to us as “pawns”, you have referred to the journalists of the Daily Egyptian as “the DE kids”, and now you have felt the need to  directly address the parents of your students as though you are running a high school D.A.R.E. program.

Whether you choose to admit it or not, those students referenced in your letter who received citations or required medical care are fully responsible for their own actions. It does not matter how childish or irresponsible you may believe your students to be.

They are adults and should be treated accordingly, regardless of the actions of the hundred or so individuals who chose to drink irresponsibly at last year’s events and suffered the consequences. Continue to treat your students as children and you will be rewarded with a university of children. You will see the quality of education offered at this university take an exponential nose-dive.

Also, you seem to regularly forget that a sizable portion of your undergraduate body consists of non-traditional students such as myself.

Was this letter sent to the parents of the many military veterans that have chosen to continue their education at this university?

Was it sent to your students who are parents themselves? Was it sent to your older students who held careers outside of this school before returning to pursue higher education?

You clearly have a “one-size-fits-all” mentality when it comes to addressing your student population, which does a great disservice to the concept of diversity at this institution and ultimately alienates those students who come from non-traditional backgrounds.

With each passing semester you are in your office, with each semester you run this university as a corporation and now as a high school, I find my faith in this institution slipping away and my concern for the future of this university growing.

Nicole J. Szczepanik

senior from Carbondale studying microbiology

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