The pressure of Whitworth's "Ideal Student"

Danielle Johnson | Columnist

The “ideal” Whitworth student: Christian. Goes to Hosanna every week; to Awake; to chapel. Pure. Has a specific set of beliefs and values. Reads their Bible. Listens to all the current worship songs. Posts photos on social media of their Bibles, highlighters, and coffee. Has a Bible verse in their Instagram bio.

Let me start off by saying that I am in no way trying to criticize anybody who does any of these things; in fact, I completely respect any ways that different people live out their beliefs and values. I’m not trying to criticize the ways that anybody lives out their faith, but rather trying to bring attention to the fact that I’ve only been attending Whitworth since September and have already noticed and felt a certain “pressure” from the community to be a certain way, to believe certain things, and to live out my faith a certain way.

One of the reasons that Whitworth appealed to me when choosing a college was that there is an emphasis placed on the fact that the community doesn’t discriminate against anyone because of their beliefs and also doesn’t force certain beliefs on anyone. I’m a huge believer in not forcing anything upon anyone and respecting their beliefs and ways of life and understanding that the things I believe are not the only things that could be “correct.” However, since I’ve been at Whitworth, I’ve felt a sort of pressure to behave a certain way, despite the emphasis placed on the university not forcing anything upon students. Since there are a lot of students that seem to have similar beliefs and live these out in certain ways, it makes it feel as though, for students who don’t act the same way, that they are doing something wrong. As a Christian, I often feel like I am not doing “enough” simply because I live out my beliefs in ways different than many of those around me.

And I’m not the only one. I was in an art class the other day in which our project was to create something that sent some sort of message to a certain audience. My idea was to create an image portraying a photo on an Instagram feed, with a cup of coffee, a Bible, a journal, and some pens as the subject, posted by the “ideal_whitworth_student;” the goal of which was to bring awareness to what I am writing about right now. As I was working on my project, I heard a student next to me talking about how their project was going to showcase a similar idea; that there’s a certain ideal created on campus of what you should be like if you go to Whitworth, and that some students’ goal is to be “more Whitworth” than others. This student was discussing the exact same ideas that I had been thinking about, describing it as a problem that creates a toxic environment on campus.

The Whitworth community is a wonderful one; don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love the fact that the university places emphasis on not forcing beliefs upon its students, but as much as I do respect and appreciate that, I think that the whole community could do a better job of enforcing it. I do feel like my beliefs and values are certainly respected at Whitworth, but, as I mentioned before, the amount of attention that is put on the community of students who fit the “ideal student” persona, sometimes makes me feel like I’m not enough solely because I act differently. And I don’t think that anybody on this welcoming, wonderful campus should be made to feel that way.