Editorial: UT Retention Rate Hampered by “Culture of Ignorance”

Curious about the forces behind UT’s notorious retention problems, The Minaret decided to inquire into some of the issues that are driving young, talented students away from this institution.

Though, predictably, individual motives were nuanced and complex, one common theme surfaced often enough to be reasonably disconcerting.

Many students who were transferring out of the University, and more who had seriously considered it, identified the rudeness of their fellow undergraduates as a prominent reason for disenchantment with UT.

Talking with students, there seems to be an impression among those disenchanted with campus life that the UT student body is unnecessarily cliquey. Several students have unfavorably compared the atmosphere to a high school, complete with rigid castes and alienating networks.

Of course, it is probably unrealistic to expect a diverse community of over 5,000 students to refrain entirely from joining together in somewhat insulated social formations.

Yet there is a drastic difference between propensities to hang out with those of the same social ilk, and the closed-mindedness of shutting off everyone outside of that network.

Once students decide to restrict their network of interaction to the select few, overt rudeness almost necessarily follows as a manifestation of their disdain toward “the other.”

If the closed-minded students deign to speak with someone from an outside network, they usually do so with an air of superiority that breeds rudeness and precludes the benefits of genuine communication.

For disenchanted students, personal anecdotes abound regarding unprecedented levels of rudeness witnessed among UT students.

One student noted that they had never seen rudeness on the scale that they see it daily at UT; another quickly agreed, adding that their friends from home were shocked to learn that such an extrovert was having trouble connecting with students.

Unfortunately for the University, the ostracism felt by many does seem to contribute to the retention problem on campus. This is truly a shame, for undoubtedly many of those who decide to transfer are among the brightest and most talented students on campus.

One UT professor has remarked how unfortunate it is that a high percentage of his best students end up transferring to different schools. Perplexed, he attributed the disproportionately high transfer rate among star students to a “culture of ignorance” that prevails on campus, making pariahs out of engaged students.

Driven and devoted students, therefore, may often face a kind of double alienation, first from the ostracism and rudeness that results from the cliquey nature of the UT student body, and then from the isolation meted out to students seeking knowledge in such an atmosphere.

Obviously The Minaret’s observations about the rudeness of certain UT students, the cliquey nature of campus, and the extent of a “culture of ignorance” on campus, are strictly limited by a selective and inadequate sample.

Yet if any of these trends are at least partially present on campus, as we think there might be reason to believe, it might help partly explain why UT has such a noticeable problem retaining a very high percentage of its students, especially its talented and devoted students.

We would like to appeal to all students on campus who value a vibrant, diverse student body and an atmosphere of free inquiry on campus. Please fight against the cliquey nature of campus and guard against the rudeness that, perhaps even subconsciously, tends to accompany it.

As a University and a learning community, we owe such behavior to our fellow students. Perhaps our future best friends and academic collaborators will remain at UT because of it.

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