Do you remember when we were young students, at the start of our time here at Westminster, bright eyed and bushy tailed? Wait, no, that’s a description of the squirrels that run around campus. We were g, at the start of our time here, keeping our noses out of trouble, eyes on the book, and eagerly anticipating the “exciting,” “wonderful” parts of college we heard all about when we toured the place as seniors in high school?
When the weather is nice, we have canoes that we take out on the lake, they said. You can double major and travel abroad and still graduate in four years, they said. There are lots of places to eat and hang out at night, they said.
All of those things sounded exciting when we were juniors and seniors in high school. Boating and traveling and hanging out late at night captivated us, paid a deposit, signed a form, and brought us to our home at Motherfair. Now, though, we are tired and dragging our feet through the snowy sludge on the way to class. We keep our heads down because the “exciting” things we were promised are not happening.
College is a black hole. It’s mysterious and alluring from the outside. Once you dive in, though, it’s a vacuum. The more time I spend inside the vacuum, the more I realize we decorate the entrance of the vacuum. We affix carnival mirrors, glitter, and picket signs with loops cursive saying, “Hop in here!” and, “Welcome Home!” to the outside of the black hole then forget to adorn the inside.
So many things in the black hole of college life are looked at through the perspective of how they can relate and be appealing to prospective students. This phenomenon has taken on such velocity in the past few years especially, that on-campus activities for currently-enrolled students are being placed under microscopes, prodded, and interrogated to ask how they can incorporate prospective students instead. Long-established Westminster traditions are being assessed. If an event does not seem to have an attraction basis for prospective students, then it won’t be allotted a budget. It won’t be allowed to happen. Our creative arts publication, Scrawl, for example, used to put on “Scrawl Day,” a day of student-wide writing workshops, book signings with authors, poetry readings, and other activities – a day that was Tradition for a number of years – is not able to be reincarnated as it once was. Why? An event with such a wide interest pool cannot be held, cannot be approved by the school, without marketing it toward prospective students. Never mind that Scrawl – and any other organization on our campus – is for currently-enrolled students to participate in.
You would think that activities such as these would be endorsed because prospective students who are interested in such events will be enticed by hearing about the event. They might even want to attend the school so they can participate in the event themselves. As a student.
Hijacking student traditions to make the school appealing to prospective students leaves the school bereft of activities. Current students stop wanting to execute events because the administration will want to target the event toward people who don’t go here. If people who don’t go here attend events, current students won’t want to attend the event (after all, they feel it is no longer for them). If current students don’t attend events, events stop happening.
Participating is a rite of passage. We all chose Westminster because something in our visits to campus made us look forward to spending the next four years racking up debt and seeing the same ten people in all our classes. Admissions relies upon our student organizations thriving in order to make campus life. If we sacrifice our traditions, if our events only get approved because it will make the school more money in the future, then we are sacrificing student life.
It is wrong to pay attention to solely people you want to look good to, prospective students, and people who make you look good, alumni. Current students are on campus because the coercion process of tours and sweet talk worked. But we won’t continue upholding the values that brought us here if the only reason to do so is to be appealing to new people. Continuing a legacy is good. It’s important. It is what keeps the school operating as a school. The school cannot keep operating as a community, though, its superior quality, if the people who eat in the TUB every day, sit in Patterson for class every day, walk across the quad, study in the library, live in the residence halls, play sports on the athletic fields are ignored.
We arrived at this campus just like the squirrels who live here – bright eyed, bushy tailed. But we lose that. We’ve lost that. Our traditions are being wrung dry of student engagement and celebration. They are being hung to dry, on display to lure people in, and then tucked away nicely in a drawer never to be seen or enjoyed again. We are here and we are now. Traditions are forever, but only if we covet them as they are meant to be: enjoyed by students or lost forever.
Copyedited by Brock Powell