Last Friday, the college held its first open collection since the 2012-13 academic year. Despite reports that the responses to the collection were generally positive, the Phoenix was dismayed to learn of the dismal numbers of student participants in what is supposed to be an opportunity for growth of a shared sense of community on campus. Despite the fact that roughly 40 people were in attendance, the overwhelming majority of those present were faculty and staff members, and the only senior in attendance was Murphy Austin ‘16, the organizer of the event. We at the Phoenix believe that the poor attendance at this collection is a symptom of a larger problem plaguing the student body: while many students both praise and believe in the Swarthmore community, the amount that they actually do to support and/or promote that feeling is disappointingly small.
In many ways, the attempts by the student body to promote a greater sense of community do not reach beyond the surface level. While the Phoenix applauds the Pep Club and its endeavors to unite students around varsity athletics, that work alone is not nearly enough to ameliorate what many students have articulated as a very particular sort of isolation that they feel during their day-to-day lives at Swarthmore. Despite all of the newsletters, campus events, and emails, many students feel as though that deep sense of care and concern for the community at large is still quite lacking.
Many students also voice complaints over the lack of engagement in events/activities hosted by various student groups on campus. While ENLACE strives to create a fun and informative series of events for Latinx Heritage Month, SQU works tirelessly in planning its Pride Month Activities, and the Pep Club tries its best to pique student interest in varsity athletics, it is overwhelmingly those students already affiliated with those groups who end up participating the most in their sponsored events. The reason for this is simple; Swarthmore students believe in a sense of community, but only a sense of community that serves themselves and their own interests. In order to truly create a more inclusive campus, we at the Phoenix believe that individual students should strive to get out of their comfort zones more often and participate in the wider infrastructure of campus life instead of attempting to use it to further their own personal goals, whether that be as an individual or as a part of a larger group.
We believe it is imperative for the student body to come together as a community more often, so that individual students feel like they belong to something that actually has merit to it, instead of being used as an empty phrase by the Office of Admissions. A good place to start is to participate in those events already being sponsored by the college that are designed to promote a sense of community, collections being one of the prime examples. Until the student body realizes this, the Phoenix believes that the idea of community on campus is a fragmented one.
It is unlikely that Swarthmore students who don’t already make an effort to participate in the community will do so because of this article. What are some solutions that would incentivize this participation?
Thank you for the article. There was actually an open collection last semester on April 3, 2015 that around 15 people went to, including myself, a few professors, some staff members, and maybe four other students. Jason Heo and Joyce Tompkins organized it and had sent emails to the whole campus.
I’m not sure it’s a lack of interest or investment in the Swarthmore community which limits student participation in these events, but rather poor timing of events and a very delicately balanced workload. I was very involved on campus, but I often found I didn’t have time to attend interesting programs or lectures because of my classes, jobs, sports and other club commitments. I don’t have a solution or a way to incentivize students to attend things like collections, but I do think this op-ed is missing a huge part of campus culture with their critique of the student body.