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  • Writer's picture The Vindicator

CSU, You Need a Culture

A rant to Cleveland State about why it needs to revamp its culture before it's too late.


Written by Andrew Paduano




CSU has no culture. There. I said it.


College is a peculiar thing. For a lot of people, it is a place which can foster personal growth, promote self discovery and meet new people. Unless you go to Cleveland State University. Then you're outta luck.


…that may be a bit of hyperbole, but for a lot of students, it can feel that way at CSU. From personal experiences, and from what I’ve heard many other students say, it does not feel like college culture where all the students live in the same area. CSU has little student life. Let’s dive in, shall we?


I may get pretty ranty and seem like I’m just bashing my school, but really I’m emphasizing how important these issues are. I believe that if a lot of the things I discuss aren’t resolved, CSU will not have the bright future that it could — and I don’t want that.


CSU’s Outside Situation


Cleveland State has recently pushed marketing towards living spaces, which signals, “This is a four-year college full of things to do,” which would be good — if that was true. Maybe some people like exploring cities and feel like they have a typical college life at CSU, and that’s good. But from what I’ve heard many people say — especially commuters — this is not the case.


At least in the United States, most colleges have a similar common culture. Everything is usually right near each other on one walkable campus. If you look at CSU’s campus, it’s just one outdated building per academic block, a few apartments and dorms all laid out on a strip and an arena for big events (which isn’t even very close to the other buildings). To be fair, they have a decent rec center. There are not really any spaces to hang out in-between the buildings outside, aside from a few benches, because the school is thrown almost smack-dab in the middle of Cleveland. And no, the courtyard outside the Student Center is not enough — I have more places to hang out in my bathroom. It seems like there was little work done to make this school feel like a college.


I can count on one hand the places at CSU students actually eat at regularly, and still have fingers left. Anything else, and you need to take a 500-mile hike through the city. A lot of the places that students hang out are on the opposite sides of Cleveland.


"I’m sure there are at least a total of 47 ghosts in the school."

CSU’s Inside Situation


I’d argue the inside situation is even worse. The school’s main student life place — the Student Center — currently has only four small areas to sit if you don’t want to pay for overpriced meal plan areas: Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, a first floor atrium and the “commuter lounge.” The supposed “commuter lounge” area is, frankly, a joke. There are many places to sit, but because it's an old room on the otherwise uneventful third floor, no one goes there. Except maybe the boogeyman.


Most of the classroom buildings are extremely old. They have little natural light, little seating, tiny hallways and tiny classrooms. I’m sure there are at least a total of 47 ghosts in the school. It boggles my mind how anyone could make such unwelcoming architecture. The library actually has many places to study, but the building is older than a dino turd, with less natural light than the bottom of the ocean. And don’t even get me started on the school’s bathrooms.


CSU’s Activity Situation


Yes, CSU does have a decent amount of good clubs and organizations (looking at you, Vindicator), but without a welcoming college culture to back that up, the amount compared to other Ohio colleges ends up small. A major problem seems to be that CSU does not market their events and organizations well, at all.


They have one day — no, one small morning timeframe — per semester when students can see (most) of the student organizations set up in the Student Center. Besides their “VikesConnect” student group website which people rarely use…that’s it. And guess what? They didn’t even have a student organization fair this past fall 2023! Why? I don’t know! 


             And these events are always in the same boring spots in the Student Center, because they literally don’t have any other common spaces to set them up.


Why CSU Needs to Fix Its Culture


Why does all this stuff matter, you may wonder? Because all of this makes the school a commuter school in culture — a community college — not a typical college. And what happens when commuters go to a commuter school? Nothing. Living on-campus may make things better for some, but it also may not for others, since the school will still have the same core problems. Now, I did choose to commute to CSU because it was affordable, as did many others. But other colleges in Ohio have commuters, and not nearly as bad of a problem. This is because their culture promotes a stronger college life. CSU promotes (overpriced) parking, going to classes, and driving back home on the freeway. 


In the “College as a Commuter” episode of the Cleveland Stater podcast, one commuter student said, “even if I want to attend something, I either have to come out of my way to come to campus if I’m not already here for class, or I have to find ways to stay later or come earlier before class.” All the commuter students on this episode said they never really made new friends at CSU, and did not feel connected to campus. 


What Could Be Done Long-Term?


This is a complicated topic because there are so many factors. CSU has plans to add more housing and buildings as part of “CSU 2.0” in the coming years. Many components of CSU 2.0 are good, but if you actually look at the proposed maps in terms of what could help student life, it’s really not much different aside from more housing, more athletic areas and two new (tiny) courtyard-like areas. The school is still blended in with a dead side of the city; the bustling city is on the opposite sides. 


That is the main problem. 


I think, for their future, they need to completely redo the school’s atmosphere: make the whole urban area around the school more active on a fundamental level. If only the school was on a more active side of Cleveland.


What Could Be Done Now?


CSU needs to find ways to make all its events and organizations more obvious, appealing and frictionless. Really invest a lot into them. They need to invest in better furniture, lounging spaces, and food places … everywhere. They need to fill the outside spaces around campus with much, much more greenery and places to sit. For the love of all that is good and holy, they need to give us natural light in the buildings. Oh, and while they’re at it, give the organizations better budgets, too. 


CSU has moved slightly in the direction of these kinds of changes, but not enough. Whatever they think they are doing now…they need to up that by 10,000. 

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