Fog hangs like drapery around the outer edges of the campus. The commons is filled with anxious, confident and confused people milling about. It is the first day of classes at College of the Redwoods, and somehow things seem a bit more organized.
Registration lines in the Administration Building are being managed (better than emergency rooms at our local hospitals) by an employee who questions each student in the queue about why they are in line, and directs them elsewhere if necessary. Balloons float above folding tables scattered about campus manned by individuals offering smiles and assistance to new students on campus. Staff, students and employees are usually pleasant and cheerful — no change there.
In the Learning Resource Center there is the low drone of conversation, cell phone ring tones and clacking of keys at the many computers. Lines in the bookstore grow and shrink, but during the rushes there are five cashiers to accommodate the start-of-term buying frenzy. The cafeteria is noisy with student chatter and silverware clatter. Smokers occupy the designated outdoor smoking areas, with a few yet to be informed stragglers wandering about campus. The parking lots are about three-quarters full, and the just newly paved road out front looks terrific and is very smooth to drive over.
Students on campus are much more conservative than their counterparts at HSU. Classes are interesting mixes of high-school students, full-time students, working students and community members. As is true on most college campuses, some athletes amble about carrying few books, some older students transport their school items in rolling bags and the rest strain muscles lugging their bulging backpacks.
The campus is nestled into the hillside, thoughtfully landscaped and surrounded by redwoods. Birds of all sorts, including ravens, swifts and hummingbirds, do flybys and consider this area their home. However, if the college really wishes to enhance this lovely park-like setting, the unnamed lakes are due for some reclamation and trees in the picnic table area need to be pruned.
One of the greatest assets on campus remains the faculty, which is optimistic at the start of this term, though the accreditation process weighs on many shoulders. (During the summer, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges placed CR on probation; unless the school meets specific benchmarks in the coming months, it could lose its standing.) Instruction is first-rate, and the instructors are caring individuals who make every effort to help students learn their respective subjects. The new interim president, Tom Harris, appears to be quietly orchestrating positive changes.
As the day wears on, a cornflower blue sky edges out the fog. Students look more relaxed, and are settling in for the fall term. From a casual perspective, at least for today, concerns about accreditation and the fault line running through campus appear lower on the horizon.