EVAN SCOLLARD ’17
At Boston College, Holy Cross, the University of Massachussetts, and Elon, I reflexively understood their student populations as different than our own without understanding how. During a recent visit to Cornell, I found the same cultural disparity that I’ve encountered on the aforementioned campuses. This time, though, I observed more intently and identified each campus’ warmth as the distinguishing factor that set it apart from my own school, Trinity College. They dressed in school attire, engaged the different groups within the broader student population, and defaulted to friendliness – all in contrast with what I see as my own school’s general hostility.
Back ‘neath the elms, I’m more critical of our culture, especially when friends visit and comment on these differences that I’ve already seen in my trips to their schools. But how am I supposed to counteract their criticisms? Any outsider coming within our boundaries will hear how mean we are to one another or how strictly we adhere to the perceived social hierarchy. We judge openly and unapologetically, separating ourselves by arbitrary social confinement: where people spend their Saturday nights, how they dress, which side of Mather they prefer, and especially what company they keep. With little consideration for our shared and equal membership to the same college, we disparage other social circles and hide within the safety of our own.
In fact, our student body has shown an unreasonable concern for divisive issues, neglecting any shared interests that have the amazing potential to unify us as an institution. This may seem like a broad generalization, but consider how happily we’ll embrace controversy and the chance to fight rather than join together, be it as community activists, as students, or even just as sports fans. And make no mistake there, our disdain for Wesleyan isn’t an act of unity as much as just a projection of our hostility masquerading as a playful rivalry.
The same normalized bitterness affects even our relationship to Trinity College as an institution. We see none of the school pride that characterizes and engulfs the communities of so many other colleges. Instead, we have a discourse that encourages us to criticize our school before we’d ever boast of her. If this point seems exaggerated, consider our lacking school pride and how easily we write something unfavorable off as “typical Trin.” Our hypothetical visitor might even struggle to identify what college he’s come to, given our lack of Trinity apparel. He’d more likely find a Dartmouth or Yale sweatshirt on the Long Walk than one of our own.
But despite our shared blame, we all complain about Trinity’s social dysfunction. Of course, we inherited the existing social structures and norms, but we’ve also perpetuated the system. Instead of critically evaluating and attempting to overturn Trinity’s power to disenfranchise its students, we begrudgingly accept it as inevitable and continue the same old patterns. The responsibility, though, is shared.
Administrative initiatives to repair our social structure offer good direction, but effective change depends on full student involvement and dedication.
When we take this charge seriously and hold our college in positive regard, the social divisions will erode as consequence. Of course we should also take immediate steps to interact with each other more compassionately, but a great enmity towards Trinity undermines these small efforts. Until we collectively address this college with greater loyalty and fondness, we will continue to temper our relationships with the overlaying dissatisfaction. But once we make Trinity a proud and engaging place, we won’t need to escape into social divisions or continue a cycle of hostility.
We begin, by just being nicer to each other.
EVAN SCOLLARD ’17