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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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Our View: Pursuing informed action

“Have you heard…?”

Much of the information we ingest as students comes through a grapevine of communication: the friend who heard from a friend who works in Admissions, or the friend who happened to overhear a conversation that sparked their curiosity, or the friend whose professor mentioned something offhand in class the other day.

Some of the information proves to be factual, but a significant chunk of it remains unproven and hypothetical.

Our tendency, however, is to form a collective reaction in response to the information we hear — regardless of how much (or how little) we know and how much (or how little) of it is accurate.

Reaction, rather than informed action, seems to be our preferred mode of operation. Yet while reactions are convenient expressions of in-the-moment realities (and are not inherently bad), they rarely consider or reflect the fuller picture. Uninformed reactions, in turn, birth uninformed actions — which, as a rule, fail to produce the change we desire.

The recent Change.org petition, contesting the enforcement of Taylor’s meal swipe policy in connection with AVI Fresh, is a case study in the impact of reaction versus informed action. 

Created anonymously on Feb. 1 by “A Concerned Taylor Student,” the petition is directed toward Taylor University administration. The petition’s description states, “I am calling for change to be made and conversations to be had,” a sentiment backed by 869 signatures.

It is difficult to know whether the majority of the individuals signing did so as a course of informed action, or as an outlet for more impulsive reactions. However, many of the comments seem reactive in nature — reflecting confusion, along with frustration:

“It just doesn’t make sense to me how we already paid for our meal plan…and yet somehow aren’t allowed to use them as we please??? I really wish this policy changes it’s just not fair.”

“Taylor requires me to pay for a minimum amount of swipes, limiting the use of swipes is basically stealing my money.”

“The dining policy sucks.”

“It’s lame and erodes intentional community.”

Regardless of the motivations behind the petition, it seems unlikely to effect the change desired by those who signed. 

The meal-swipe policy itself stems from the assumption that most students (though they have access to all meal swipes) generally consume only a percentage of those swipes. This assumption allows the University to set meal-plan pricing at a lower starting point, making the plans more affordable.

The policy is also a byproduct of the University’s partnership with AVI Fresh. The petition, which can do little to change economic assumptions or agreed-upon standards of operation between both organizations, is therefore unable to effect much change.

“When looking to catalyze change or raise an issue, it is best practice to seek first to understand the situation before expressing your concerns to gain the knowledge needed for moving forward with discernment,” Elisabeth Nieshalla, student body president, said. “In this case, there are factors that, though disappointing, are beyond our control.”

Stephen Olson, Taylor’s chief financial officer and vice president of finance, said the frustration behind the petition is understandable. While the meal swipe policy is not new, the enforcement of it may have caught students off-guard.

“Reaction is (a response) to an action,” Olson said. “And (the administration) took an action, right? So I wish in hindsight, we would have done it more thoughtfully, deliberately, slowly, maybe.”

Yet while the petition succeeds in communicating students’ reactions, Olson notes that it reflects a lack of information and does not offer much in the way of constructive action. Its impact is minimal.

Olson emphasized the importance of direct communication with himself or other members of administration, and encouraged students to look for more information — the “fuller picture” — when seeking to take action. 

“I always caution people: There’s always more to the story,” Olson said. “And just kind of dig for it — find out! Asking ‘why’ questions is better than just reacting with exasperation and anger.”

Reactions are faster; they are quick and convenient. Yet they rarely produce impact equal to that of informed action.

The Taylor community, collectively, and we — individually — have the opportunity in coming weeks to pursue informed action: to accompany reactions with information that leads to effective action. Proactive communication and patience to seek out the fuller picture are two ways to increase the positive impact of our actions. 

“I welcome students to reach out to my office (studentbodypres@taylor.edu) at any time with a concern regarding student life,” Nieshalla said. “We desire to serve the needs of the student body to the best of our ability and will respond and communicate in a timely, effective manner.”