Reflecting on a Divisive Semester

Marissa Roberge

This is my third attempt at writing this article. I’ve been struggling to find the words. This will be the final article I write for The Maroon-News, so how do I want to leave things? To be honest this has been a very difficult semester. I love Colgate and I’ve loved my time here, but lately it’s been hard to voice that truth. I’ve felt a lot of anger, sadness and confusion as a result of rising tensions on issues of both sexual assault and racism. It all came to a head Monday night.

In the first version of this article I reminisced about all the wonderful things I’ve experienced over my four years here. I wrote about not always loving Colgate, about applying to transfer and crying myself to sleep every night freshman year. I talked about how that changed –– the decisions and experiences that made me fall in love with Colgate. Now I cry when I think about leaving. All of those statements are true, but the article didn’t feel right.

My first-year difficulties as a privileged white woman, while devastating at the time, seem small now. And what I wasn’t saying was that while I am saddened to be leaving this place I’ve called home –– I am also a bit relieved and this makes me all the more sad.

Monday was terrible and scary on so many levels. I was fortunate enough not to be on campus. I was at the Colgate Inn having dinner with a guest speaker. This dinner was derailed to say the least. When we arrived at the Inn every student’s cellphone started receiving alerts, followed by messages from friends asking about one another’s safety and sharing the latest rumors about what was happening. The Colgate Inn offered students rooms for the night. Professors and people I considered mere acquaintances were checking in. I saw my community rally together. While I was terrified for the safety of friends on the hill, I was comforted by the community before me and reminded of the love and care people have for one another here.

This all came crashing down when it was confirmed that the alleged “active shooter” was actually a false alarm –– just a young man with a glue gun working on a school assignment. This man was a man of color. The speed with which I went from terror and confusion to relief followed by anger was astounding and difficult to process as I’m sure was a similar experience for many of my peers. Relief that no one was hurt, anger that a student of color was put in danger all for holding a glue gun and that countless more students were traumatized by the belief that shots were being fired across campus.

Murmurs of “not on this campus,” “not here,” “nothing ever happens here” were flying across the Inn all night, and I think those notions of “that doesn’t happen here” have existed for a long time. That goes for all forms violence including sexual assault and racism. But the fact of the matter is they do exist, do happen and can happen on this campus.

Clearly, Colgate is far from perfect. Clearly, we as a community and as individuals need to be better and have a lot of work to do. This semester has been a wake up call in many ways. I think any senior will tell you that with each year you learn more about the harsh realities of Colgate and the world we live in. But oddly enough during this time your love for Colgate is growing too. At least mine was, as I made lifelong friendships, bonded with professors, discovered passions and made lasting memories. In my final weeks I’m trying to hold onto those good memories and to the moments when my community came through for me, rather than disappointed me. Like when strangers offered me a safe place to sleep and students I’d only spoken to a few times made sure I was safe.

I don’t want to hate Colgate –– I want to make it better and I think we have to start by allowing ourselves to remember and enjoy the good while at the same time being accountable for the bad. We all have the capacity to be better and to take care of each other, so let’s be better and let’s take care of each other. I know it’s not that simple and I know some people will be angry with my attempt at positivity –– but it’s the only way I know how to move forward.