By Mario Stefanidis
I chose Fordham University to be my alma mater for a number of reasons. The alluring beauty of the campus lends itself to a traditional-style college experience that other Manhattan schools could not offer. I felt that the Jesuit principles underlying the university would translate to a holistic academic experience where I would be treated as an individual who could freely express himself.
These tenets led me to the conclusion that Fordham would give me the greatest return on my investment going forward with my career. The four years have passed, and my calling ended up being finance. I will be graduating with about 500 of my fellow Gabelli students next month near Keating Hall, the building which allured so many of us when we visited the Rose Hill campus for the first time. Short of the charming architecture and manicured landscaping, the university has taken more from me than I have given to it.
Based on the GSB courses I have taken, I can tell you that many have not even remotely contributed towards my understanding of business. I can tell you that I have had more than one class where students had to rally and petition the dean to step in and change things. I have had some classes where about 60-70 percent of the students either dropped the course or never showed up outside of mandatory exams. All these classes came at a cost of about $5,000 each, an amount that can be described by my economics courses as “sunk.”
Being that there is more to a university than just classes, the transgressions do not stop here. This year, I have DJ’ed events on Rose Hill’s campus for Fordham. Months later, despite numerous promises from the leadership at OSI (who made me sign almost a dozen contracts), I have not received any of the money I was promised. In contrast, friends and party-throwers hosting off-campus events I performed at not only paid me promptly, but gave me more than the near free entertainment I provided Fordham.
I am not the only student suffering. Clubs across campus are plagued by shoddy communication and random budgetary transgressions which eat at the funds they need to operate smoothly. It is not the money that counts, but the principle of it all. Fordham has no qualms soliciting me for donations while I am still a student with over $200,000 in debt, but they cannot procure $200 to pay me what I am obligated. If I did not have the $400 needed to partake in the senior festivities with my peers, I would not be going to the Senior Ball or any of the other costly events that are a part of Senior Week.
Even “Parent Appreciation Day” is a for-profit event, clocking in at $80 per person for what is sure to be an event that does not cost Fordham half of the aggregate entry fees. If one cannot afford the $240 for themselves and both their parents, it would appear that they do not appreciate the very people allowing them to attend one of the most expensive universities in the country.
For non-senior readers of this article, think about the money you had to pay for Under the Tent or the “drink tickets” which could easily have been free. Perhaps Rose Hill students are unlikely to know about this, but two years ago Lincoln Center’s Under the Tent was cancelled because it would have been too expensive for the university. This is of course understandable given that, according to Fr. McShane, our endowment is “only” $665 million. This has caused the ranking of Fordham to fall to 60th on U.S. News’s annual report in 2016 from its high at 52nd in 2013. For comparison, the schools Fordham was trying to vie against such as Georgetown and Notre Dame have been rising and are ranked at 21st and 18th respectively.
In light of Fordham’s recent Giving Day campaign, I am unlikely to donate any amount of money to the university in the future. The school has made it clear that the educational attainment of Fordham students is not their top priority, but the façade of the campus is. Looking at the comments on Fordham’s Facebook page related to Giving Day can give one a snapshot into the negative sentiment of the school’s alumni. Why should they donate to the school they entrusted their education with when it continues to underperform? Jennie Ramirez states that “Fordham runs its students like a business,” a sentiment which I am forced to agree with.
I and many fellow seniors have sat idly by while our university has not enforced their commitment to its students. Going forward, we may have to associate with a school that has not given to us as much as we have given to it, financially and academically. I have been sponsoring a scholarship at my elementary school for the last few years and would have loved to expand this giving to Fordham in the years to come. Instead, I am left with a sour taste in my mouth and the longing for the experience which I was promised four years ago when I first sat in on orientation.
It is only the current students combined with the alumni who can change the future. I am not pessimistic about what Fordham’s future has in store, but it will take the efforts of many of us to impart this sentiment to the administration. Things have to get worse before they get better.
Mario Stefanidis, GSB ’17, is a finance major from Douglaston, New York.