Possible Priority Point Abolishment Creates Stirring Town Hall Meeting

Marist College President David Yellen, joined by a host of administrative members, presided over a town hall meeting on Monday that provided information to students on the proposed abolishment of the priority point system, specifically its jurisdiction over the rewarding of housing to students who garner the highest numbers. 

Yellen was accompanied by Director of Student Activities Michele Williams, Student Body President Ted Dolce, and Executive Student Body Vice President Ankofa Billips, and the four fielded questions from students on the proposed changes. The meeting, which was held in the Fusco Recital Hall and lasted just over an hour, addressed a number of subtopics within the priority point debate.

One of these points, which was most consistently pressed by Yellen, was the notion that the priority point system, in its current form, does not adequately accommodate students who come from lower-income households, the rationale being that students of this demographic must devote more time to jobs, family, and other financial factors that hinder them from being able to properly immerse themselves into academics and extracurriculars. Yellen estimated that 15% of Marist’s student body population falls under the PEL (Project Expense Level) income line, a key financial parameter that guarantees that students within this demographic automatically qualify for federal student aid based on their family’s annual income. Yellen also estimated that 25% of Marist’s student population is at a disadvantage in the priority point system, for reasons beyond their control.

Another concern put forth by Yellen and other administrative members was the issue of varying academic abilities of students. Under the current system, Marist students can earn up to twelve priority points for academic success. However, Yellen feels that the system overemphasizes academic triumphs over extracurricular involvement.

“We want every student to reach their maximum potential academically,” Yellen said. “Not everyone comes in here with equal preparation for complete academic success.”

To this effect, students in attendance offered counter-arguments on several of the issues highlighted by Yellen. Several students noted that the priority point system is their main motivating factor to “work hard,” which was a phrase commonly uttered throughout the meeting. 

There was also a clear desire, out of the students present at the meeting, for increased online information on the issue. Student Body President Ted Dolce noted a Google Form, available to all Marist students, that has been seen by over 2,000 students thus far, according to Dolce. The form allows students to fill out questions regarding the proposed policy change. 

Going off this point, several students expressed skepticism over the administration’s commitment to respecting the student body’s opinion in the College’s thought process regarding the priority point issue. Yellen held that the level of student engagement in the issue will be crucial in the ability of Marist’s student population to be properly heard on the issue.

If abolished, the priority point system will be replaced by a lottery system commonly seen at many other colleges and universities across the United States. The change would not take effect until housing registration begins for the Fall 2019 semester, at the earliest. 

Jack McElduffComment