Don’t drown the bunnies: Why colleges should foster a positive enviornment and not try to weed students out

By Morgan Levy ’19

How would you feel walking into your first year of college, knowing the school wanted to weed out a number of students before they would be counted as enrolled? It’s a horrible thought that any university—particularly it’s president—would make a statement like: “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.” That’s what President of Mount Saint Mary’s University Simon Newman wrote in a recently leaked email.

The issue lies in a culture where the president felt the pressure to enhance the metrics of their academic class in a race for prestige. Numbers matter. Whether we like it or not, the US News and World Report college rankings are probably one of the first places people go when they start looking at colleges. I myself am a victim of this, taking the liberal arts ranking starting at one and continuing to a certain number as a way to compile a basic list of liberal arts schools with my major in a relatively close geographic area. Some people use it as more of a prestige metric than one to make sure they don’t miss any schools.

With the advent of the Common Application, students apply to more schools than ever before. Too many qualified applicants want to go to too many of the same schools. Any school that doesn’t fall under a highly desirable umbrella must fight to protect their yield and appear to be of a higher caliber. Newman, along with many university presidents, is concerned about the optics of a low retention rate after freshman year. Unfortunately, this led to the distorted frame of mind that weeding out a few freshman students early on to artificially inflate the retention rate would work.

I am proud to attend an institution that fights for the success of each and every student instead of trying to weed students out. It’s no accident that Lafayette’s yield grows with each year. Instead of continuing in a race to inflate numbers to look prestigious, other schools could take a note from Lafayette and encourage students instead of trying to destroy them.

The purpose of higher learning in America is not to be a numbers game focused on who is the best, but rather to educate the next generation. Everybody is better off learning and living in an environment where people are educated and encouraged to succeed.