There are few things worse in higher education than watching talented and smart students walk out the door in defeat.

When that happens, there often are multiple factors that come into play, but perhaps none is worse than when the student believes he/she was treated poorly while on campus.

Faculty who consistently show genuine care and support for their students acutely feel the pain that comes with knowing a student is transferring. It would be easy for someone to say, “Hey, why do you feel bad? You had nothing to do with him/her leaving.” That’s a shortsighted response that misses the key point: Those of us who fully embrace the idea of wanting to see students succeed soon learn that others on the campus didn’t do their jobs; we’re left to conclude that at least one of our colleagues “mailed it in” and demonstrated none of the professionalism all adults in higher education should display.

In one of my classes, the theme of knowing “your mission and vision statement, and your personal and professional values” resonates almost every week. Twice in the past year, students have come to me to say that the “vision statement” I place upon myself was one that needed to be displayed: They had a legitimate concern about their situation on campus and it needed attention.

I can’t swear that I perfectly handled either case, but I know I can look back and believe I did the right thing. At the end of the day, the students need to make the final judgement; and if they were willing to contribute to this post, I’d hope they would confirm that I served them well.

Student talk (yes, I know, so do faculty and staff), and they quickly learn to whom they can go with an issue. Whether I’m walking on campus at the start of a day or heading off it at the end, I know a bunch of students trust me.

I’m honored by that. But I can’t help but think that when students choose to leave before they graduate that far too often someone else proved they couldn’t be trusted.

Do they know that? Do they care? Sadly, my experience is they are too self-absorbed to even notice.

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