Photo Courtesy of Roanoke College
Article Written By David Hall
Think for a moment about where you sit in the Commons, if you go to the Commons. I can tell you where I sit: back corner, front room, by the infamous cowgirl painting. Okay, now think about where everyone else sits. Make a little map in your head if you want to. I’d be willing to bet that we’re all imagining the exact same map.
Last issue, I did some reporting about campus culture and how it may be affecting drug arrests here at Roanoke. It has lead me to think about some more ethereal problems on this campus, problems that are hard to define and even harder to solve. I’m talking about our school’s vicious cliqueness, something that affects us all and benefits no one.
When I was a freshman I sat down one time at some table and all the members of that table’s clique began to sit around me and talked across me until I was uncomfortable enough to get up and leave. I think we all remember what it felt like when we realized there were places we could sit and places we couldn’t sit when we go in for a meal. I can tell you what I felt: confusion, anger, frustration, disgust, and ultimately like everyone else who eventually finds their place, acceptance. I’ve got my corner, and I don’t leave it often.
The divisions in the Commons are talked about a lot because they’re inherently visible and immediate. But make no mistake, the imaginary lines we draw on our maps are only a reflection of the bigger problem related to culture on this campus. We’re divided. We’re deeply divided and it hurts everyone.
How does it hurt us? I’m glad you asked.
Some are terribly lonely. Some of us are terribly lonely in the last place we ought to be. I came to Roanoke because I sensed a community where people care for one another however upon arrival I’ve realized that although we strive towards this ideal, we’re far from it. Loneliness, especially when preventable, is one of the humanity’s greatest tragedies.
We lose the valuable perspectives and experiences from people who are not like us. Stuck in our corners, we interact with a small sliver and lose as a result. It’s hard to describe how great that loss is, to not learn how to interact with people not like ourselves.
A hostile atmosphere permeates where a positive one could exist. All our stress, academic, professional, and personal is amplified by the hostile atmosphere that we all participate in creating. I’m suggesting that a culture with less barriers and more bridges would probably lead to a tangible personal benefit for all of us.
So, as solutions are always more interesting than problems, how do we fix it? It’s a hard question, one that’s escaped the best among our administrators and faculty alike. Ultimately, it’s on us. And it’s a lot more complicated than just sitting sit next to one another in the Commons.
I don’t have the answer to that question, but in the meantime I charge everyone who reads this to help me begin this discussion that will hopefully lead to some change. Because not only are we better than this, we’re better off without it.