If you find yourself on the verdant greens of Whitworth, keep an eye out for one of the campus’ most treasured, albeit fragile creatures. When it isn’t bouncing around the HUB, chittering cacophonously and licking the hands of freshmen, you can find this delightful beast at Prime Times and late night study groups.
However, please take care to obey the numerous signs which read “Do not disturb (or feed) the community.” Community is an easily frightened mammal, whose skittish nature leads some to fear its extinction. Yet be warned: if prodded, it may attack.
From the first pre-frosh baby steps we take down the Hello Walk, to our final, robed stride across the graduation stage, the word “community” has been a constant companion–like that little blue fairy that follows Link around in the Ocarina of Time, only louder. Indeed, “buzz-word” is an apropos term. Just listen to anyone advocating this place to a group of pre-frosh, and you’ll hear community uttered so many times that it becomes a low, chant-like drone.
To me, out of all of these campus buzzwords, “community” is the most credible, and perhaps the most interesting. The social life that has been cultivated here is something unique and deserving of attention, and even praise. If you polled 100 Whitworth alumni, I’d be willing to bet that each one would fondly reference “community” in some way. When I’ve recommended Whitworth to my sister’s high school friends, it’s the word that inevitably comes up. We’ve been taught to think in those terms.
Although “community” might be our one of our most commendable characteristics, we’ve implemented it in a number of unhealthy ways. “Community” has become some sort of deified monolith we all are supposed to bow down to. Yes, community is a jealous goddess and her priesthood of student leaders are a zealous bunch.
There’s always a danger of diluting a word through overuse, which is why so many eyes are rolled at sustainability, community, diversity, etc. No one likes deceased equestrian abuse. But, I think that’s a fairly obvious critique, so I’ll move on.
Ironically, “community” has been distorted into a word of exclusion. When I was a student leader last year, I noticed that “community” is frequently seen in an extremely narrow way. It gets limited to Prime Time attendees and the people that show up to dorm programs. If a kid likes to spend all day playing video games online or chatting with his long-distance girlfriend, this means his community must be broken.
In leadership meetings, we were encouraged to discuss all of the residents on our hall and how they were doing in the “community.” In the process, quiet, reserved students were seen as having some kind of malady which we were supposed to cure. So, Shy Reader, if your RA keeps popping into your room “just to say hi,” you now know it’s because you have been diagnosed with a community deficiency.
Similarly, we’ve turned “community” into a wimp–something capable of being pushed over with a rolled-up newspaper. Sickly and delicate, community must not be “disturbed” or we run the risk of hurting its feelings. Campus shenanigans and diverging opinions are therefore taboo. By standardizing Whitworth “community,” we’ve denied some its flavor.
This idea is rather absurd. Whitworth’s underground World of Warcraft devotees and stoner tribes are just as much a part of the campus’ color as the folks who go to Hosanna and like making macaroni crafts while dancing to Disney music at Prime Times. Our campus community is multi-faceted and motley, but our understanding of it is not. We should enjoy the quirky, unorthodox fringe groups, not exclude them from our conception of community.