Taylor Deskins ~ SGA Senator
Transfer Students make up a small portion of the total student population, but they have a big impact on the university’s academics. Transfers tend to have a higher GPA than traditional undergraduate students nationwide. Even though transfer students are a minority here at the University of Lynchburg, they are an important population and should not be as underrepresented and forgotten as they are. There are many problems that transfers face at universities across the nation as well as problems specific to this university. While there are some fantastic initiatives and groups of faculty and staff that are working hard to make this a transfer-friendly campus, we have a few systematic issues that should be addressed.
The first and most prevalent problem that transfers here face is the larger institutional focus on Traditional First-Year students. First-Years are the largest population of incoming students which understandably correlates with the university’s strong focus on them. This becomes detrimental to transfer students when everything then becomes solely geared towards first-years. Programming, events, and even speeches have neglected to recognize the needs and simply the presence of transfers. This is not referring to first-year events that are specifically held to meet the needs of their population, but rather to larger, university-wide events. An example of this happens in speeches like during Convocation when non-inclusive language like “During your four years here” or “this is your first time in a college setting” is used. Transfers, on average, spend about 2-3 years at their new institution and are coming in with diverse college experiences. So when phrases like these are used in speeches that are supposed to welcome its students, it has the opposite effect. How are transfer students supposed to feel welcomed here when they are not even recognized in welcome speeches?
To illuminate another note on the topic of inclusivity, some systems at this university are not fair nor are they conducive to the success of transfer students. Some faculty and staff have tried to address this, but this resulted in the creation of separate spaces that make the playing field even for these students. Great examples of this are the award programs and ceremonies that the university puts on. It is very difficult for a transfer student to compete against a traditional student who has had more time here at the university to manifest and display their excellent achievements. Even if a transfer student were to get involved as much as they could during their short time here, on paper, it would not compare to the number of activities and time spent in organizations like that of a traditional student. As a consequence, transfer advocates have created the Transfer Accolades, a recognition ceremony where transfers can be nominated for and awarded different accolades that distinguish their accomplishments.
Transfer advocates have also created the first transfer house. The goal is to build a community of transfer students as well as to provide them with a southside housing option. Even if transfer students pay their deposits early on in the fall, they cannot participate in the housing process like incoming traditional and returning students do in the spring. Transfer students are usually given the spaces that are leftover, which makes the university unattractive to prospective transfers. Transfer students are also not permitted to register for classes with the rest of their class cohort. If a transfer student with a junior standing is admitted, he or she cannot register when the rest of the juniors register for classes in the spring. This means that they end up not getting the classes they need and have no other option but to email professors and ask to be added to the classes.
Scholarship amounts, courses not transferring, advising problems delaying on-time graduation, and the issues I mentioned above along with many others are creating a campus environment that is not friendly to transfer students. These issues are not new and will continue to hurt transfer students until the system changes. There are staff and faculty that are working very hard to make these changes, but the issues of transfer students needs to be a campus-wide initiative. These issues are quite ignored because there simply are just not enough of us. I would urge the university to think about these issues when reviewing and creating policy. This campus prides itself on being an inclusive campus and I hope that one day we all feel like we are truly included.