The more things change…
Picture the empty residence hall or apartment at the start of the fall semester—some furniture, several boxes and white boring walls. It’s a bit dreary, but students can’t afford much in the way of decorations—hence the need for the Annual Poster Sale.
As I walked through this year’s sale at the University Center, I was struck by the familiarity. The people selling posters are too young to have been present when I was an undergraduate, but I’m sure some of the posters are the same! It proves the validity of the French saying, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, commonly translated as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” After all, while there are differences between generations and between individual experiences, it is also true that there are many similarities.
For example, we all know that the college decision-making process has changed as have our admissions recruiting processes. Admissions starts recruiting students earlier and students and their families spend a lot more time on it than used to be the case. But at its core nothing has changed—admissions staff members are still looking for students who want to enroll and students are still looking for a campus that fits their needs and where they feel that they fit in.
Another example is orientation and the move-in process. Orientation barely existed when I went off to college and my mom and I really did drive straight to college, unload my belongings (from the car, no trailer), and my mom turned right around and drove straight back.
But even though universities now do a lot more to engage and connect students as soon as they arrive on campus, new students still get homesick and wonder if they made the right decision.
Has anyone been on a campus in the last 40 years and not heard students—and faculty and staff—complain about parking? In my lifetime registration has been done by cards and standing in line, on the telephone, on computers in a lab and now on the Web from anywhere in the world. The details have changed but the issues really haven’t. Students still try to figure out the right major and design the “perfect” schedule; faculty and staff (and family) still work to help them out. The quality of the facilities at the rec center has changed over time, but students still work out at the strangest hours. Students valued free food while I was in college and that certainly hasn’t changed! Students also participated in campus activities and went to parties and studied long hours and didn’t sleep as much as they should 30 years ago. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Change has been a by-word on the UTSA campus in recent years, and the changes here are phenomenal in their scope. And yet, there are still professors here who care about students’ education. There are still staff members here who work to help students be successful. There are still students here who want to make a positive difference in their lives, at the university and for the community. It is true; the more things change, the more they stay the same.
By the way—according to Wikipedia, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Kerr, a French journalist and novelist, coined that phrase in 1849. I don’t know, but I suspect college students in that year also got homesick and complained about the food; however, I doubt parking was an issue.
—Gage E. Paine is vice president for student affairs. She writes a regular column for the student affairs newsletter.