Opinion

Privatizing Culture

IMAGE BY ERIK MAGNUSON

By Matthew Walthius
CONTRIBUTOR

Why did you come to Beloit? I came here because it is unique. It is a quirky place that challenges me intellectually and allows me to be independent and have fun.  The middle of nowhere Midwestern US happens to contain some of the nicest, smartest, most critically thinking people I have ever met; faculty, staff and students.  The school is almost completely self-operated making it a very personal place.  From being on a first name basis with professors to the relationships students have with staff, most people have strong connections to the greater community.

But I feel as though the culture of Beloit is being muffled.  Someone once said to me that high school is a day job, and Beloit is a lifestyle. I agree with this 100 percent.  Beloit’s mission statement says Beloit is about engaging everyone’s intelligence and imagination, committing to personal responsibility and public contribution in a diverse society, and integrating experience with collaboration among peers, professors and staff. This means in everyday life, not just in the classroom.  And I see Beloit students do this every day.  But I haven’t been seeing the college walk the walk.  Where is Beloit’s responsibility and contribution to the community? By hiring workers, then firing them and calling them temps? By buying from Sysco, the largest food distribution company in the world when we are in the Midwest with some of the most fertile soil on the earth and surrounded by farms? By privatizing the grounds crew to a company in Clinton or the possibility of privatizing the dining services to BAMCO, which is owned by Compass Group, one of the top three largest food service companies in the world?  How are students supposed to learn to live in a diverse society if we get rid of all the campus diversity?

I have seen a pattern that I am trying to rationalize in my head. But it’s been more and more difficult. Possibly losing Trio, Help Yourself and Upward Bound, the steady rise of tuition, the lack of an ethnicity program, the new focus on sports with the new sports field and now the talk about a $20+ million dollar sports center, the new lacrosse team, the privatizing of grounds with the possibility of privatizing of dining services. I’m not trying to say sports players’ priorities are unimportant, but we just got a new field and we have a 20+ year old dining hall that all students are required to use for six semesters. These have been major recent events at Beloit. I can’t claim to know what the goals or outcomes are, but I want you to think about what puzzle these pieces are building…

I think we all need to take a step back and think about what direction the school should go. After all, shouldn’t Beloit as an institution which creates liberal, progressive students be liberal and progressive in its business practices and structure?

I want Beloit to be more transparent, for the school to be a reaction to the larger society around it, to hold onto the personal feel of our culture.  I want to ask big questions, as Beloit tells me to, and I expect big answers.

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