Columns / Discourse / May 12, 2016

Is One Community a myth?

One Community: the idea that is advertised to us as prospective students and throughout our first year. Although we are told it exists throughout orientation in the form of New Student Orientation, after Pumphandle every year, all but the mention of One Community vanishes from campus. I noticed towards the end of Fall Term my freshman year that for the most part Knox was just as segregated as the suburban public high school that I graduated from in 2014. One way you can see this is the similarity between the caf and your typical public school cafeteria.

Looking around the Caf, Oak Room and Skylight Room, you will notice that more often than not the same people will sit in the same or similar places time and time again. More often than not, people will also sit with people who are in the same, or at least similar, activities, clubs, teams, majors and organizations that they are in. Just by walking past tables to get food, you will notice that athletes are sitting at tables with mostly if not exclusively other athletes from their same sport. Greek members will be sitting with other members of their Greek organization. You rarely see people sitting with members outside of their “clique” unless there is another purpose, or that one of the people at the table is a member of multiple groups who are represented.

However, this self-segregation happens a lot in many areas of campus. It is not necessarily the fault of those who self-segregate. However, it is wrong to advertise One Community if it doesn’t exist; moreover, although self-segregation might increase bonds of camaraderie within groups, it has negative affects on our campus especially by advertising that we are One Community.

Some of the issues that we suffer from on this campus are ones that are experienced all over the world. Those are issues of cultural ignorance, apathy and bigotry. Because Knox College is a segregated one (undoubtedly like most colleges), Knox is a breeding ground for these issues. People on campus for the most part only interact with the majority of campus (mostly peacefully) twice a year: Pumphandle and Flunk Day. Besides that there is little, if any, interaction and even on those two times groups will often stick together throughout the time. And so even these events do little to create One Community and leave us ignorant and apathetic of other students on our campus of which we don’t interact with on a regular basis.

There is some change currently happening to the issue of One Community that is in form of the mandatory diversity workshops that student organizations need in order to have Student Senate ratify their club budgets. Although this is a net positive in breaking down some barriers between students, it doesn’t go far enough. One way that these diversity workshops could go further is in two ways. Firstly, these workshops should have a way to measure how much people learn from these workshops. Secondly, although Student Senate does not have jurisdiction over Greek life or athletics, require students who are hoping to be in a Greek organization or school-sponsored athletic team to attend an intensive diversity workshop, with an assessment at the end. Although making diversity workshops more mandatory in order to participate in extracurricular activities won’t magically solve all of our problems, it will hopefully allow students be able to see one another eye to eye, instead of averting their gaze and only understanding people within their own groups.

A second possible way for One Community to be created is by either elongating New Student Orientation or by pushing it earlier. Earlier this year I was an Orientation Leader for NSO; what I noticed both within my Orientation Group and those of my friends is that there in some ways is a hierarchy of when people arrive on campus and the connections with others they have already made. The earlier one group of first years gets to campus before others, the more time they have to cultivate friendships inside their own groups. This is the case for Fall Term freshman athletes who arrive two weeks before ISO (International Student Orientation) begins. This two weeks that they have just by themselves allows them to cultivate friendships and gives them no reason to venture outside of their comfort zones come NSO when they are in a group with other students. By changing the Orientation schedule and having it earlier, Knox could possible delay the onset of this self-segregation by team membership and contribute more to a campus culture that truly values One Community.

If Knox College were to truly value One Community like we say we do, they would change these two aspects of our college as well as many others and create a campus where students are encouraged and rewarded for engaging people outside of their circles in a positive manner.

Alex Davis

Tags:  Alex Davis discourse Knox College one community orientation

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