This weekend, everyone was in full ‘show dog’ mode.
The trees were groomed to perfection, decorations and streamers were placed over dorm-wall cracks and our most smiley staff and students were on full panther display.
Eastern’s campus became a living definition of the word ‘gilded’, with all it’s bumps and bruises being hidden by posters and floor-meeting reminders.
While parents and new students may have been impressed by the shiny glitter of Eastern in recruitment mode, returning students saw what was really underneath; a struggling campus that feels more and more unwelcoming and broken.
When I was in high school, I too was awed by this place. I managed to overlook the lack of BSWs and the permanent talk of ‘vitalizing’ the campus that, I did not realize, was in need of life support.
Returning to campus, I have removed the glitter from my eyes and have failed to find the welcoming atmosphere I had when I first moved in my freshman year.
Instead of an actual admissions counselor, I was moved to an overworked faculty member who is not entirely sure of the requirements my minors consist of.
I went from feeling like I could actually achieve my dream to feeling like the illusion of college was one decimal point away from not being mine, and the campus suddenly did not care.
I understand the valuable life lesson America’s higher education seems to be founded on: to achieve a dream you have to go so bankrupt you can no longer afford to live.
I do not want to be babied, I do not want everything handed to me on a silver platter.
I want a university that wants me because of my unique ideas and abilities, not because I am one more number they can add to their freshmen enrollment stat and then drop.
I did not choose Eastern because I felt pity for their low enrollment numbers, I chose Eastern because of the people and opportunities afforded to me here.
Eastern should start to place as much focus on recruitment as they place on new students.
The students on campus are the ones who will help the enrollment numbers grow, not the billboards so strategically placed around Illinois.
We all want new students on campus, we all love this place and want to share that love with others.
Do not forget your current students as you spend money and time covering up the scars so visible in this campus’ dorms and classrooms and mentality.
We learned to love this campus long after the posters were ripped down and the trees became overgrown, remember what prospective students actually look for in a college and do not leave your current ones out of the conversation.
We are all proud panthers. Do not forget about us.
Brooke Schwartz is a sophomore journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2182 or at