College community ponders civic engagement

Castleton State College has long had trouble getting students to want to be involved politically and with social issues. On March 28, a collection of about 20 students, faculty, and administrators gathered in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Campus Center for a discussion entitled Civic Engagement: Bring It Alive. It was a talk designed to — as the Working Definition of Castleton’s Civic Mission says – “prepare its graduates for productive citizenship both while they’re here at the college and later in their lives.”

“Through civic engagement, students can discover why they should be involved in their college education,” said Academic Dean Joe Mark.

Presentations at the discussion included a general overview of civic engagement at Castleton, building a community at Castleton, and the current goings on with the Social Issues Club and the Green Campus Initiative.

“There are a lot of things going on that people don’t see as connected to other things going on,” said Dean of Students Greg Stone.

It was a message echoed by Dennis Proulx, director of residence life.

“We see ourselves as the small college with a big heart, but we do get segmented,” Proulx said, discussing problems the college has had with getting students interested and involved in improving the college.

After the shorter presentations, there was a group discussion on how the college can fix its problems with students, as well as defining what campus community members say the problems actually are.

“Here’s my problem,” said sociology professor Paul Derby. “How are you going to fix it for me? But it has to be a participatory fix.”

Another problem discussed was that many groups and clubs form on campus and then have no idea of what their club can do to make a difference.

“What I think a group wants to do is feel like their ideas are going to make a difference,” said Derby.

On the subject of how these issues can be better investigated, several ideas were presented.

“One of the things we need to do is have regular, predictable public forums,” said Stone.

Another idea was to try and get similar clubs to work together on certain projects to help present a better community atmosphere that could possibly attract more students to want to get involved.

“At some point, this community has to decide that it’s important enough to take the time,” said Stone.

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