If I hear classmates refer to the folks who reside downtown as “State Street creepers” one more time, my forehead will have a permanent blister from so many facepalms due to my peers’ ignorance. For God’s sake, grow up and start having empathy for those outside your little university bubble.
But I can’t blame them, really. Despite its best efforts, Gannon still has a long way to go to motivate students to care more deeply about social and world issues.
Take, for example, Box City. Is it just me, or is that whole concept deeply offensive?
As an urban campus, Gannon sits blocks away from homeless shelters – you know, the ones students volunteer at during GIVE Day and other service projects. Two blocks away in the real downtown Erie, actual human beings are struggling with addictions and domestic violence and hunger. Meanwhile, Gannon students are giggling and shaking tin cans on A.J.’s Way.
But it makes for a good press photo opportunity. And it gives lackadaisical students who need service hours yet another chance to color mediocre designs with bright markers and then just sit around.
Box City isn’t solidarity – it’s superficiality. We can do so much better than that.
But the event continues, and Gannon continues to promote that students complete more than 70,000 service hours per year.
I wonder, though: 70,000 hours doing what?
Don’t even get me started on the 30-Hour Fast. Using that framework to teach junior high or high school students about hunger is one thing, but college-aged students deserve deeper opportunities to reflect and learn.
Students can experience solidarity in truly profound ways during Alternative Break Service Trips or through established relationships with community partners. I know – I’ve participated, and I’ve seen the way these experiences shake up people’s worldviews. ABST was one of the most transformative experiences I’ve ever had, and I credit the Center for Social Concerns for helping me process what charity and justice really mean.
But Gannon is taking steps in the right direction. When I first heard about the criminal justice department’s Storybook Project, I was floored at its profundity. And I wasn’t surprised when I heard the International Student Office ran out of plates during International Night.
Our Gannon community as a whole craves experiences that prompt deep reflection and connection to a world bigger than what’s contained between West Third and West 10th streets.
The culture among our students, though, is unfortunately one of apathy. Why don’t students hold protests? Why weren’t all the positions on the Student Government Association contested in this year’s executive board election? Why has The Knight received only a handful of letters to the editor?
This is the reason why my heartburn keeps me up at night. Gannon’s a supportive and welcoming community, but we’ve got a long way to go before we’re truly “student-centered.”
Senioritis, my ass. I’m graduating from this university with a burning desire to improve my campus community.
I can only hope that future generations are more fired up than this one was.