With the grad fair taking place in Keefe, theses being completed and senior photos flooding Facebook timelines, the fact that graduation is just around the corner has become increasingly clear. Many seniors, overwhelmed by emails and impending deadlines, are already feeling the swirl of emotions that graduation brings. Amidst all of these feelings, there likely exists a small feeling of regret: regret about that class they didn’t enroll in or that risk they didn’t take.
Over the weekend, a swarm of prospective students surrounded our campus, full of questions and expectations. They struggled to differentiate the yellow Keefe Campus Center from the yellow Loeb Center. They paused by the dozens of identical brick buildings, trying to assess the merits and disadvantages of this school while cautiously walking around campus, unable to know where their path might take them. The new adventure of college awaits them, as well as all the mysteries surrounding it.
Walking through the stacks of Frost Library reminds us of the overwhelming volume of published material in the world. No matter how many classes we take, there are always more books we could read, more textbooks from which we can learn and more people to whom we can listen. There is so much we will not know simply because of limited time. However, the feeling of not knowing enough should not become a state of hopeless stagnation.
American culture demands that college students experience immense personal growth during their education. Under such external pressure, how can we make our time and growth at Amherst meaningful? It can feel as if the worth of our education is often framed as dependent on how much we change or how much we learn. While the pursuit of growth is an admirable ambition, we should be cautious of obsessing over volume and should remain critical of what our growth actually looks like. What are the indicators of development? Who chooses those indicators?
The saying goes: “Time is of the essence.” That is to say, the timeliness of events is paramount to their success.
Before we imagined what community looked like, we simply wanted it. Students and the institution both often rely too heavily on aesthetics. We try to create a community that looks and behaves a certain way, but we don’t always listen to the underlying emotional drive for social connection. Relational drive becomes sidelined for the sake of the relational product, and we lose sight of why we were trying to connect with others in the first place.
Speaking and listening across political divide in these times is challenging. We are intent on bringing conservative ideas to liberal campuses, or bringing liberal ideas to conservative campuses. We are focused on pulling in thoughts beyond our standard lines of thinking. We seek to break the assumed bubbles in which we exist. However, these efforts are often ineffective due to an absence of true listening.