Diversifying Community

Despite our sincere concern and genuine efforts, the Colgate community has not changed to become more inclusive, nor has it changed to become more meaningful. There are two main reasons. Firstly, the identity and community that is cultivated within the student body reinforces social grouping along socioeconomic, racial and cultural lines. And secondly, students–whether from the majority group or minority groups–do not engage in or develop meaningful relationships. This is certainly the case when considering cross-group relationships, but it also defines relationships within a group.

In general, students’ desire to be accepted drives them toward mimicry rather than embracing their own diversity. Students’ lack of self-confidence compels them to be validated by others–others who themselves are living from their deep insecurities. The result: communities that lack intimacy and that perpetuate conformity. When considering the content of most conversations on campus, the driving forces behind the hook-up culture, or the reason why many men keep silent in class, it becomes apparent that our culture is plagued by these fundamental problems.

The in-groups and out-groups that form, as well as the desire for acceptance, are both a function of natural sociological tendencies. As a result, no one party is to be blamed for their existence on campus. The solutions of the past have failed, not because the motivation has been absent, but because the solutions themselves have not directly or adequately addressed these elements of the Colgate experience.

What is the solution? I believe it is to actively shape the campus culture so as to create a new basis for group-formation, shifting the power away from the dividing forces of socioeconomic status, race or culture that currently define our social-groups. The new in-group would be defined by a culture of leadership, self-awareness, and individual responsibility. To do this, the university would employ a similar tactic to that President Obama used to clinch the victory this last November. He developed a narrative that communicated a third way, away from the “politics of fear” of the past, and created a new basis for party association.

In the same way, the University needs to establish a narrative in order to create this new in-group. This narrative needs to be continued throughout students’ Colgate experience and needs to be promoted through particular venues and through particular people.

Colgate has a responsibility to develop global leaders. This type of education is both academic and extracurricular. Our extracurricular education, however, has let us down. It has reinforced smaller communities and neglected developing a larger Colgate community. As a consequence, student interactions are largely homogenous, depriving them of the experiences necessary to help them compete in an increasingly global world. In order to overcome this culture of conformity, the Colgate administration must be willing to directly invest into shaping the Colgate campus culture.

What is more, our lack of boldness in this area has not allowed students to discover themselves. They have not tested the boundaries of self-exploration. By leaving the system the way it is, we are producing followers rather than leaders. Not only does this have a profound impact on these individual’s lives, who graduate and are just as lost as they were during college, but the process perpetuates itself. The Colgate identity that gets transmitted to prospective students, lived by enrolled students and glorified by alumni is one in which conformity is valued. While there are exceptions to this trend, its prevalence is quite sobering.

Colgate needs to become a place where people are fundamentally changed. Not in spite of the university’s efforts, but because of them. This doesn’t have to compromise students’ liberty. If anything, the opposite is true; by directly shaping the Colgate campus culture, the administration allows students to maximize their liberty. The current model of trial and error ultimately stunts the growth of students and leaves them regretful. If culture is not addressed, and the Colgate ID stays the same, then the same problems will recur in another seven years.

Increasing financial aid, building new buildings and changing University policy are not adequate. There needs to be direct investment into changing the campus culture. The persisting campus problems are solvable. It requires courage on the administration side to take the risks necessary to accomplish the University’s aim.