Colgate F.A.C.T. Rally Alienates Prospective Students



As I walked up the hill to campus this morning, I noticed the signs directing potential Colgate students and their parents as to where April Visit Days events were taking place. I had almost forgotten that it was the time of year when accepted high school seniors come to visit the campus, are given tours of the academic buildings and attend various informational and entertaining events that gave them a better idea of what being a Colgate student is about. I thought back to my April Visit Days experience and remembered how excited I was to see the place where I could potentially be spending my next four years. I had never visited the campus before, and had traveled a long way to visit it on this occasion. At the time of my visit, while I was open-minded about what Colgate had to offer, I was actually leaning toward confirming another school’s offer of acceptance. While I recognized Colgate’s strong academic program, it was Colgate’s outgoing students, helpful administration and broad assortment of extracurricular activities and social options that immediately influenced me to change my mind. I wanted to be part of this community.

Today, I saw familiar looks of excitement and curiosity on the faces of potential students as I passed them on the sidewalk. They gave me nervous smiles, and I had the urge to tell them about my every positive experience I’ve had here and that if they came here, they would be happy. As I made my way further toward campus, however, I noticed a large cluster of these visitors and their parents. They were intently watching the scene across the street. What they saw was the large group of students and alumni at the F.A.C.T. rally being held on DKE’s lawn. They listened to the students protesting the “unconstitutional” actions of the administration, who were accused of grossly overstepping its boundaries. They heard how Colgate was no longer an environment that students wanted to be a part of. One group of protestors standing near the edge of the lawn blatantly said to them “Don’t come here.” They continued to watch as the rally migrated up to James B. Colgate Hall. They absorbed all of the negative opinions, harsh words and biased viewpoints that were presented and were undoubtedly left with feelings of confusion. The prospectives looked let down and disappointed. Many of the parents just looked angry. I heard one parent say to another “So we’re putting our kids into a dictatorship? Glad I came all the way from Washington for this…” I heard a prospective student say “But all the kids up the hill seemed pretty happy…”

I understand why F.A.C.T. wanted to hold its rally during April Visit Days. What better way to antagonize the administration? What better way to prove your point than to force it upon those with eager ears looking for the insider’s prospective of Colgate? I wonder if this group realizes, however, that their tactics for spreading the “truth” are the same tactics that they accuse Colgate of using against the students, particular those in the Greek community. They say that Colgate has alienated its students, infringing on their rights in an unmerited manner. If F.A.C.T. saw the looks on the faces of prospective students today, they would truly understand the meaning of being alienated. These potential members of the Colgate community were expecting to experience what it means to be a student here and looked to the current students for guidance. Instead of helpful informants, what they experienced were angry, bitter individuals, who most likely appeared unapproachable to the visitors. They saw a hostile environment in which the students are pitted against the administration, and the only way for the students’ voice to be heard is through aggressive protests.

This could have been their dream school. They could have worked their entire high school careers to get into a school like Colgate, only to be disappointed by some protestors telling them that Colgate isn’t even a place worth coming to. Sure, this is one group’s opinion, but it will most likely be the one that made the strongest impression on the prospectives. The F.A.C.T rally was obvious, visible and outspoken. While the prospectives may hear contrasting opinions, shedding a more positive, less biased light on the school, many of these views will come from the administration or the few Colgate students who they speak with. They certainly will not have the opportunity to witness a “Pro-Colgate” rally. The F.A.C.T. group pushed its beliefs on the prospectives just as they accused Colgate administration of pushing its beliefs on them. It was a one-sided effort to make an impact on the prospectives.

I do not disagree with the concept of the F.A.C.T. rally in general. I believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble. I do however think it was unfair and completely inappropriate to hold this rally during April Visit Days. The high school seniors visiting Colgate right now are hopeful and excited about their futures. They should be allowed the opportunity to form their own opinions as to whether or not this is place they want to spend their next four years. While they are presented with a primarily positive image of Colgate in the events planned for them, they are also made aware of the issues facing the school at present times through the signs on the majority of the Greek houses, the SA4C petitions circulating campus and the letters from President Chopp floating around tables in the Coop. I don’t think they should be made na??ve of the conflict, but making the Colgate campus appear as a battleground is not only inaccurate but in poor taste. Many of these people have traveled a long way for the Colgate experience. Let them experience it. Don’t force them to take sides. Don’t recruit them to be part of the administration-hating army. Don’t alienate them. Most of all, don’t tell them not to come here.