Yes, we study completely different things. VanderCook is one of the most highly regarded institutions for preparing students to be music teachers, and Illinois Tech places a huge focus on STEM. They’re two completely separate institutions in this regard. But we’re not separate, not really. We share the same campus. VanderCook students live in the dorms, they eat in The Commons, they visit the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC), they lie down in Siegel field and take naps in the sun. VanderCook students participate in and lead student organizations and are a part of fraternities and sororities.
But despite this, there seems to be a large disconnect between not only the student populations, but the faculty and staff as well. This article serves to shed some light on the issues that VanderCook students currently face.
VanderCook students pay the Student Activity Fee (SAF). They should be able to participate in student organizations unimpeded, yet their student ID cards do not grant them access to Illinois Tech’s academic buildings. If, for example, a VanderCook student wished to participate in an organization like Student Government Association (SGA), whose senate hearings occur in Stuart Building after the building has closed, they would need to stand by the door and wait for someone to let them in.
VanderCook students do not have access to HawkLink, period. This has a lot more implications than you might first believe. Firstly and most obviously, HawkLink is the official, central “hub” that lists all upcoming student organization events. Without a HawkLink login, VanderCook students cannot sign up for student organizations on this platform or be listed as either a general body or executive board member. This poses serious difficulties for VanderCook students who, for example, wish to act as a treasurer of an organization; this position requires students to submit purchase requests via HawkLink, among other duties. VanderCook student Alivia Jakubowski described that “a lot of the student organizations at VanderCook wish they had [a HawkLink account] so that communication for finances and other IIT information would be better and beneficial for us at VanderCook.”
Lack of access to HawkLink causes other problems, as well. VanderCook students describe having difficulty accessing and filling out paperwork available on HawkLink, for example the documents that need to be submitted prior to an appointment at the SHWC. Jakubowski recounted a time where SHWC staff, surprised at hearing VanderCook students did not have access to HawkLink, had to print out the necessary forms to be filled out instead.
VanderCook students also have extensive issues pertaining to the Paul V. Galvin library. Although Illinois Tech students have 24/7 access to the library during the week, the same does not apply to VanderCook students. VanderCook students are restricted to visiting the library during visitor hours only, which are greatly reduced, ending at 6 p.m. In addition, VanderCook students have explained that they are not permitted to check out things like WiFi hotspots and flash drives, items that are available to Illinois Tech students. This is particularly frustrating to VanderCook students due to the fact that many face WiFi issues and wish to make use of these hotspots.
Parking is another issue; VanderCook students have extreme difficulty finding spaces to park, due to the fact that VanderCook lots are quite small and Illinois Tech students park there as well. This becomes especially difficult on days where Illinois Tech hosts large events such as the Career Fair, and VanderCook students find their parking lots completely filled with vehicles affiliated with Illinois Tech.
Haley Cirar, a second year VanderCook student, expressed her frustration with this disconnect between the universities. “Last year I lived in the dorms at MSV, and I fought the whole year to get Wi-Fi access as a VanderCook student. I was treated poorly by IIT people and my first year of college was spent having to study at people's apartments, coffee shops or at the school. I was never able to do any online studying or homework in my dorm. IIT and Vandercook are on the same campus and coming to school here, I was told and thought that we were all a community together, but it really feels like IIT does not care about VanderCook or the people that go there. It makes me sad to feel like it's two separate worlds, and to feel not accepted by IIT students and faculty/staff. IIT staff does not notify VanderCook when they need to reserve the parking lot that we can park in, because we have very limited places to park. It makes it very difficult for us and we end up having to park and walk multiple blocks and be late to class because of not being told the lots are reserved or closed. I want to make more IIT friends and feel accepted on my campus.”
Again, I want to reiterate that I believe these issues are in no way deliberate attempts by Illinois Tech to purposefully inhibit VanderCook students. I believe that many of these issues continue to exist simply because people aren’t aware of them; this disconnect between our two institutions is so pervasive that even the issues one has (something that, by the nature of our love to complain, ordinarily has no difficulty spreading) aren’t well communicated. This article is the start of my attempt to get the information out there.
This is simply a preliminary report of the issues and frustrations that currently exist. It is the first step in raising awareness of the disconnect between our two institutions, but let me be clear: there is a next step. It is unhelpful and unproductive to simply state a bunch of issues and have no plan on how to move forward. I will be bringing these issues to organizations like Student Government Association (SGA) and President Student Advisory Council (PSAC) in order to further this conversation.
Keep an eye out for future TechNews articles pertaining to this issue, as updates will follow. If you are a VanderCook student who would like to discuss any issues, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].
Photo courtesy of VanderCook College of Music