My undergraduate experience is over. I would say that I am sad about it, and I am, but not for the reasons that you might think. I'm sitting here in my apartment, about to make my partner lunch, but I think that these things need to be said.
Undergrad, for me, was not the movie that we all think it's going to be. There were no "freshman year roommates" that will make an appearance at my wedding (there were no roommates at all), no late night parties, no all-nighters and no lasting bond to my Alma mater. It's not that I didn't learn anything, I did, but I just didn't make those connections that we're all supposed to make. To make matters worse, I was assaulted and the way that the school handled it was less than helpful.
My school, while meaning well, put more effort into attracting new students than it did into helping the students that were already there. The programs all seemed to fit into one niche box and if you didn't fit into that box then it was up to you to build the bridges. There were benefits to this of course; I went through a period of extreme anger at the people who fit the mold, but my last two years I learned to communicate with those who were different than me. I do believe that if I was more "in the norm" then I would not have gotten as good of an education as I did because students in the norm were not challenged to experience other ideas. Students outside of the norm were expected to change and conform to the normal.
When you come from a marginalized group of people, it's very easy to assume that everyone is judging you. Even if they are (and in many of my personal experiences, were), you can't judge back. The best thing that you can do when you're not straight or religious or if you don't think in a certain way is to own it. Own it and try to make it better through education.
If it weren't for me, HPU may not have seen a protest, it may not have seen college Democrats, and it definitely wouldn't have seen an Atheist organization, but to me, it shouldn't have had to get to that point. I've seen the student government association turn down requests for speakers on any side of the political spectrum, then pass a bill to give a performing group equipment that the school already owns because of the "good press" for the school. I don't know about you, but I don't care about "good press" because those speakers or those conferences were probably a better educational experience than "good press" will ever be.
Students should care about their school looking good, but the school should actually strive to be good as well. You could get all of the good press in the world but if the educational facilities and experiences don't live up to the hype, then eventually the world is going to find out, and it won't have a lasting positive impact on the school.
I write this last reflection not as a complaint, but as a call to my fellow students to care about our Alma mater enough to make it better. Underclassmen, it's up to you to bring speakers and educational opportunities that far exceed "good press." Stand up for what you want and I promise that others will listen and they will agree with you because as much as you may feel alone, there are others who believe what you believe.
No matter what you're told, speak your mind because your voice is worth so much more than "good press." Be kind to one another and if you find yourself in the norm, reach out to someone who sits on the outside.
And so, in this last article and my only open letter, I leave it to the younger and future students at HPU to carve out an amazing education for the generations to come.