Whenever alumni reminisce about their days at Colgate, they almost always mention the “Colgate Hello” as one of their favorite parts. The Colgate Hello is the tradition: whenever two students walk by each other on campus, they always make a point of greeting each other on the way. This is because the Colgate community is supposed to be so strong and tight that everyone considers everyone else a friend. It’s something that pretty much every student hears about, be it from admissions or in passing, and it’s touted as being unabashedly Colgate.
Except that it’s not. I don’t doubt that the Colgate Hello probably existed at one point, but somewhere along the line it was definitely lost. We all know this. When you’re walking across the freshman quad and spot another individual coming your way, what do you do? If you’re anything like me, it usually involves awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact and getting by as quickly as possible. That’s definitely not a Colgate Hello. And it can’t be just me who does this because, in these situations, it takes two to tango.
So why does this matter? It’s just a small thing and doesn’t impact your day, right? Not to sound like some grumpy old guy complaining about children these days, but I think the disappearance of the Colgate Hello is indicative of general campus atmosphere. I don’t know how things were a few decades ago, but I get the feeling that the solidarity of the community on campus has somewhat dissolved over the years. Nowadays we seem so atomized. Sports teams stick with sports teams, people in Greek life socialize amongst themselves and it can be really easy to settle into a clique and become complacent when it comes to making new friends.
If we want to make the Colgate Hello more than just a platitude, more than just something they tell you in the admissions office to get you to join, we have to take responsibility into our own hands. This begins with recognizing the difference between being social and being sociable. Colgate students are plenty fine at being social, just check out Broad Street on the weekends, but we often fail at the latter. Being sociable entails not only having good interactions with people who are similar to you or whom you already know but also being able to do it with anyone at all. The problem is that that takes courage. Believe it or not, it actually takes a lot more strength to strike up a conversation with that person who has been sitting next to you all semester in class than to just keep sitting there, looking cool. It’s so much easier to keep quiet, stay in our comfort zones and leave the status quo the way it is.
But we’re Colgate students, the best and the brightest. We were never satisfied to take the easy way out with anything before, and we shouldn’t start now. If we really want to live in a cohesive Colgate community, the kind of community we were promised, we can’t just wait on the world change. Maybe this starts with doing something small like the Colgate Hello. Maybe next time you’re walking up the hill and spot someone coming the other way, make the effort to meet their gaze, smile and say “hi.” It’s a small thing but I can guarantee you that, at least for that one moment, you’ll bring a smile to their face as well. And that might just be how it starts.