Was cancelling college weekend this year justified?

Jordyn Gaines

Since the spring of 2007, the University has created a haven for underprivileged high school juniors and seniors, where they are given a taste of the college life in order to encourage them to pursue higher education. That haven is College Weekend. The Center for Multicultural Affairs’ College Weekend was created to give underserved students the opportunity to attend college for one weekend in an attempt to give them the feel for college. Though the program was created for inner-city, minority students, College Weekend has drawn students to Villanova from all ethnicities and from as far as California. The goal of the weekend is not to convince the students to attend Villanova (though we are the best and many of them do come here), but to encourage the students to want to attend college, period. 

Through the program, more than 700 students have been educated on what it takes to get into college, as well as what it takes to succeed once there. Throughout the weekend, students receive a presentation on the SATs and ACTs, as well as information on admissions and financial aid. They participate in Villanova sponsored activities, eat in the dining halls, and sleep in the dorms. There are Villanova students who act as Co-Chairs for the weekend and are there for the high school students to answer any questions they have about college life. The Co-Chairs plan the entire weekend from start to finish three months in advance. The date of the weekend was set to be March 20-22, 2015. 

However, on Feb. 14, only five weeks beforehand, College Weekend came to an end. The weekend had already been planned and set in stone and at a point so close to the weekend, over 30 students had already applied. An email was sent from the Center of Multicultural Affairs’ office stating that College Weekend would be canceled due to an incident that occurred last semester. The incident involved a minor being taken off campus to a party where alcohol was supplied. Now, each student, both those attending and visiting the University, must sign a document that states that he/she will not go off campus, nor take a student off campus. Clearly this document was violated, but that should not be and cannot be the sole reason the weekend was canceled. It is unrealistic of the CMA leaders to think that when minors are brought here that they are not participating in what is known as “normal college activities.” There are so many programs at Villanova where minors are brought on campus and are taken to bars, parties and participate in other activities that they should not (“unbeknown” to their advisors of course). So why is College Weekend being punished while these programs are still active? Cancelling College Weekend chastises the Co-Chairs who did the right thing by reporting the incident to their supervisors, while other groups do not receive the same repercussions.

When the Co-Chairs met with the powers that be to reinstate College Weekend (these people doubling as the ones who took it away), there was a mix of emotions. The Co-Chairs came in with a clear vision of how to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future, why the program is valuable and a genuine plea for at least this semester’s weekend to remain since it was already 100 percent planned. From one side of the administration, there was a genuine understanding for the Co-Chair’s point-of-view, as well as constructive feedback, and a promise to rethink the decision. However, from the other side of the administration there was the total opposite. The Co-Chairs were met with condescension and inflexibility, and left the meeting feeling hopeless. It seemed there was no point in even trying so hard to reinstate the program if there was not going to be any sympathy for the effort exhibited. The reasons given for the cancellation were surface level and rehearsed. Though it was stated that many programs were being reexamined for cancellation like College Weekend was, when the administration members were asked what other programs were canceled this late in the semester, a vague answer was given. They mentioned that other programs are being reconsidered, but none were canceled this semester. 

I just do not understand why the cancellation was communicated so close to the weekend. It was inconsiderate of the administration to wait so long seeing as the Co-Chairs, who are also full-time students of different majors, put so much work into planning the weekend. As a Co-Chair of College Weekend, you are paid according to your role. Many of the Co-Chairs depend on that money for obligatory expenses. So when the weekend was canceled without any regard for the Co-Chairs’ hard work, it seemed disrespectful. They have been considering canceling the weekend since November, when the incident occurred. This means there was a three-month period where the Co-Chairs could have been given a warning that their jobs were about to be terminated, but were not. 

The most upsetting part of this is that the high school juniors and seniors will not get a chance to experience all that the program has to offer. For most of them this would have been the only time they would have been able to stay on a college campus, let alone visit one. College Weekend is a great example of the work being put towards diversifying an institution that is considered to be predominately white. It is frustrating, to say the least, that this weekend was cancelled. The University has lost a great opportunity to showcase itself to prospective students, but even worse, high school students have lost the opportunity to see all Villanova has to offer.