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When I first started at Emporia State, I was fresh-faced and ready to kick some ass. My family has a lot of history with the university, and I was so excited to be the next generation at ESU. After four years here though, I’ll be leaving this school burnt-out and angry.

This does not apply to any of my professors or friends, I love them dearly and will forever be grateful for their existence. The reality of most things in life is that joy and happiness coexist with anger and resentment. It’s ok for me to be grateful I’m on the path that I’m on and still hold regret and indignation towards the place that’s brought me both my future and years of therapy.

Let’s start at the beginning: I was a sophomore transfer from Johnson County Community College. I did a year of general education courses there, but I knew I would be transferring into the Social Science Education program at ESU.

My first year here came with its challenges, but I was blessed with a group of lifelong friends. Ultimately, though, it was a good, successful year.

The second year I spent here, 2019-2020, came with hard hitting realities: Being Editor-in-Chief of The Bulletin came with the purview of university politics. I had a significant learning curve during this period, but it gave me the confidence I needed to be a campus leader. Shortly after I really got into the groove of being EIC, there was a world shut-down.

Unfortunately, this coincided with the turning point of my depression. Even worse, my former adviser refused to schedule a meeting with me to talk about my mental health struggles and instead invalidated my experiences by making assumptions about me and telling me that “students in our public schools deserve teachers who really want to be there.” Implying that I was not someone who really wanted to be a teacher.

If you know me, you would know that I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I still do. I’m someone who struggles in traditional learning environments and wants to be the change for students like me. Ultimately, teaching is 1000% still in my future. I’m just taking a detour along the way.

So, I switched my major. Doing this was by far the best decision I made in my four years here. I might’ve been depressed, but I knew my self-worth was more than being in a department where I had no support.

The Communication Department as a whole, but specifically my adviser, Heidi Hamilton, have been on my side since day one. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m unbelievably thankful for all the memories I have in Roosevelt Hall.

I switched my major in Fall 2020, and continued to work as EIC until this Spring. Maintaining The Bulletin was fucking hard. I held the newspaper up with a skeleton staff for an entire year. During which we put out five print editions with only four people.

The three others graduated, and once again, I had to start with a completely new staff. I could talk about them for days. I was truly blessed to work with the most wonderful people during my senior year.

However, as we come out of the pandemic and with a larger staff, The Bulletin has been able to resume journalism conferences and more balanced coverage. This comes with the hardest truth of all: This school is not an institution of higher education, but a business focused solely on revenue.

The target of many budget cuts in recent years has been primarily the arts — Theater, music, English. That’s not to say other programs haven’t also been put at risk, like the physics program. And with the Kansas Board of Regents recent hiring of the rpk GROUP, more significant budget cuts should be expected within the next year.

The rpk GROUP was hired to assess regent schools academic programs, resources and programs. In a previous report conducted by them of the Vermont State Colleges System, they analyzed 83 programs. Of those, 53 programs were recommended for optimization, 10 for investment and 20 for elimination. 

I expect similar results for Kansas regent universities. Though this is not specifically ESU’s doing, I fear for the university all the same.

Additionally, Bulletin reporter Sam Bailey has been covering ESU’s predatory debt collection practices. Once again, showing me this university’s true colors.

The last significant problem that I wish to mention is the trouble I’ve had with the business office. Apparently, policies have “changed” since pre-pandemic. This was to be expected — Except for the significant delay of important reimbursements.

From March 9-12, three members of The Bulletin, myself included, traveled to New York for our first journalism conference since Fall 2019. Our two hotel rooms had credit card authorization forms from the university, which should have covered the cost. However, one room was processed correctly and the other room came directly out of my pocket. I paid $1,201. 

I have yet to see any of that money.

I’ve talked with more than five different people about this reimbursement, I’ve called back and forth with the hotel asking for information regarding our stay when the business office has had questions I could not answer. I have justified costs listed on the hotel room, like telecomm, which was simply internet charges. When I’ve asked about its status over the course of the last month and a half, it’s always been “waiting on approval” by one person or another.

This is not a small sum of money. This has put a financial strain on both me and my parents. No student should have to wait this long to receive a reimbursement.

I point out these issues now, for previous fear of repercussions. This is my last column before I graduate. Now, instead of fearing repercussions, I fear for current and future students if I do not speak up.

This is my last column for The Bulletin. I know, it’s probably a hard one to read. My hope, though, is that by telling this story, my story, students will feel that they are not alone. That the professors in charge of academic programs at risk for being cut know that someone is on their side.

And that those in charge of the university know they’re being watched, that someone will hold them accountable.

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