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Campus News

Bursting at the Seams: Has WWC sacrificed quality for quantity?

Elizabeth Bonham, staff writer

Part two: work

This year’s increased student population and a consistently increasing student body in general has necessitated accommodations in each area of the triad. This week’s installment of “Bursting at the Seams” will concentrate on the work program.

Work crews at WWC, their functions, sizes and statuses shift each year not only to accommodate student population, but more importantly student interest and campus need. With a larger student body, students and supervisors sometimes complain that there is not enough work to go around, that responsibility is unevenly distributed, or that specific jobs are less essential to the working of the school.

A quantitative survey taken by approximately 367 students this fall expressed a different sentiment. Eighty-two percent of respondents replied that they felt there was enough or more than enough work for all members of their crew. Additionally, 92.1 percent felt that they were almost always accomplishing work-related activities. In addition, when placing students on crews upon enrollment, the WPO asks supervisors for their ideal and maximum crew sizes.

Fifty eight percent of the time, these estimations are the same.

Dean of Work of almost thirty years, Ian Robertson, commented on the discrepancy between the data and the rhetoric.

“If given the option, [students] will always find work to be done,” said Robertson, expressing his faith in the work ethic of WWC students. Since the student body population has expanded, larger work crews are necessary to support it, he pointed out. With a population of 430 in the 1980’s, the landscaping crew was comprised of only fifteen members and one supervisor. With a present population more than double that and exponentially greater responsibility, landscaping has correspondingly expanded to 52 students and two supervisors.

Robertson also framed the division of labor in a binary involving “basic” crews, or those absolutely essential to the daily functioning of the college, and crews that “add to the quality of life” on campus.  Where crews like Heavy Duty have been literally indispensable to the college, crews like Wellness have often been student-created, and contribute to the learning aspect of the work program.

Last week, the WPO held a “create-a-crew” workshop to encourage student initiatives for the latter type of crew, which saw 50-70 students attending in Canon. Among new ideas under discussion are bread baking, textiles, and barbershop crews. Existing crews that began as student initiatives include blacksmithing, the eco garden, and the bike shop.

Although the WPO has no estimation of the maximum number of students for whom they could find work, the admissions goal for next semester has been set lower than this past fall. With a current student body of 920 the projected size for next fall is 914. With 12 percent of the student population enrolled as day students, only 23 of those participate in the work program, predominantly as crew leaders.

While it is obviously impossible with a 900+ student body to make each student essential in the way he would be with twenty companions on a small farm, a shifting meaning of the work program does not necessarily mean a less significant one. With more students, it seems as though there is greater opportunity for new avenues of learning skills.

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