May 26, 2013

A Letter to Westfield State

If you know me at all, you know that I love Westfield State College (excuse me, now University). My 4 years there were amazing and I could go on and on and on about my alma mater. If you know me at all, you know I’m not one to complain about or badmouth a person, business or organization. So as I sit here and think about how to phrase my negative thoughts about Westfield State’s transfer policies, I’m stuck.

My husband, Tony, and I met in Scanlon Hall our freshman year. We would rollerblade through the Campus Green (we’re talking pre-2000, don’t judge the blades) at 11 o’clock at night on a random “school night” with his roommate, Tim, and we spent the rest of the year becoming better and closer friends. At the beginning of our sophomore year, we became a couple. We made it official on September 11, 1999. It’s late May of 2013 and we’re still together; happy married with a 3.5-year-old little girl named Jill. And I have Westfield State to thank for that. They are my world.

Tony entered college as a Biology major. Not his best move. He was an immature freshman – most young men are, no? – who admits now would have benefited from a year off. His grades slipped. He tried to transfer into the Criminal Justice program but his GPA was too low. With the guidance of his parents, Tony left Westfield at the end of his sophomore year and joined the military.

During his 4 years of active duty in the Air Force, Tony grew into a strong, smart and worldly man. I can say that because he left this newlywed to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After our time at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico was up, we moved to Burlington, VT to be near Tony’s family. We both held fulltime (and then some) jobs and Tony attended the Community College of Vermont. Two years later, we left for Boston and Tony enrolled in Bunker Hill Community College. He worked his butt off and graduated with an Associate’s degree and an impressive 3.5 GPA.

Why do you care about all this background information? Because Tony made the decision earlier this year to go back to school and finish his Bachelor’s degree. He started to communicate with Westfield State about its transfer program. He was excited to enter as a fulltime online student and get it done. Then he hit a roadblock.

If you know us at all, you know we’re both guilty of leaving things to the last minute. We’re deadline-driven procrastinators. So when Tony told me he couldn’t get an answer from anyone at Westfield about when and how to register for classes this summer, I called him out. I accused him of not trying hard enough to contact the veteran representative. I suggested he called the Registrar's office. “I did all that, Meg. I can’t get through to anyone. Maybe you should call.”

So one afternoon the week before commencement, I called the school and pleaded Tony’s case. Hell, I’m a former 4-time Class President and News Editor of The Campus Voice. Does that count for something? I’m kidding here… I was blindly transferred to voice mail inboxes. I was left on hold for more than 10 minutes. I was told his GPA from his time at Westfield was not high enough to come back to the Continuing Education program fulltime and be considered a matriculated student (needed for GI bill financial coverage, I believe).

I attempted to explain Tony’s complicated situation to an old friend who works at the school. She made calls on our behalf and we finally had an answer on the afternoon of commencement. You see, Westfield State added a rule last year that you need a 2.0 GPA to transfer in, well maybe I should say re-enroll since Tony is a former student. Since he left the school in academic probation, he’s shit out of luck. Even with a 3.5 from Bunker Hill Community College, part of the state school system. This is not the way to treat former students. This is not the way to treat veterans. Tony’s momentum and motivation to dive back into school this summer is shot, and he’s looking at programs at Bridgewater and Salem State, schools that will consider his admission based on his Bunker Hill GPA.

Oh Westfield State. My first disappointment with the school I love.

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