Why We Should Celebrate CSI for What it Truly is

How the College Should Define Itself for Its 60th Anniversary

by Clifford Michel

There’s some new signage making its mark on the College of Staten Island. It’s plastered on the College’s website and on the email signature of just about every CSI employee. If you haven’t already noticed, it’s CSI’s diamond anniversary; aka its 60th anniversary.

A diamond anniversary is a huge achievement for any institution and I’m sure that the College’s administration will have many events in celebration of this milestone. I humbly offer a suggestion to the powers that be who decide what message is put out to the college community and beyond.

We all know President William Fritz’s usual spiel. In 2014, he’d continuously mention that the College was named as one of America’s Best Colleges in the North by U.S. News & World Report. Who could forget his frequent mentions of CSI as one of “America’s Best-Bang-for-the-Buck Colleges” by Washington Monthly?

As the face of the College, I understand that any national accolades have to be mentioned by Fritz. However for many CSI students, the fact that we as a college need to hold on to such specific accolades comes off as desperate. Personally, every time I heard “Best Bang for the Buck,” I thought to myself, “I wonder if nails on a chalkboard would be more pleasant than hearing that line one more time.”

Unlike other CUNY colleges, CSI has the responsibility of accepting all students because there isn’t an accredited CUNY community college in the borough. So while some CUNY, such as Hunter College, City College and Baruch have begun to climb higher in their national standing, CSI is plagued by unfavorable statistics.

This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, this is what CSI should be most proud of. Popular culture will always recognize the legacy of liberal arts colleges and elite universities, but in many ways the unsung heroes are the public colleges and universities.

These institutions provide a platform of social mobility for those who would be helpless otherwise. I know this because I lived it.

My high school GPA was horrendous. I cried several times when I received rejection letters from colleges that many of my friends were accepted to. When I received my acceptance letter from CSI, I was far from thrilled. When I mailed in my deposit, I thought I’d be in for the worst four years of my life.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Being in the capital of the world helps lure professors that other public universities could only dream of. Almost every year new facilities are added (i.e. Dolphin Cove and the Saint George Campus) to our growing campus.

Over the years, this institution has helped shape me in so many ways. Professors have encouraged me to apply for national fellowships, which I, to my own astonishment, ended up receiving. I was also able to dorm for three years without putting myself in extreme debt.

As a student journalist who tries to cover CSI, I know this can be hard to see. Engagement is hard to come by at CSI: less than 3% of students live on campus, commuters from other boroughs typically travel at least four hours a day, and commuters from Staten Island often wish they were eight hours away from the entire borough.

Despite all of that, CSI has a colorful culture.

It can be seen in the late night coffee runs older students make between work and night classes or the arguments that newly realized liberals have with hardened, young Republicans from the Island.

It can even be seen in the quiet, moving transitional period many students go through that begins with frustration and a lack of faith in the College, but eventually turns into gratitude for an institution that has allowed them to find the starting point towards the rest of their lives.

Every year this college propels students into the middle class and gives them the ability to shoot past that and make a better life for themselves.

CSI isn’t luxurious and it isn’t sexy. It’s the ultimate tool for the city’s working class and its poor and it does its job pretty damn well.

That’s how CSI should be defined.

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