Dear college students,
The refreshing thing about college is that thousands of kids came to one place to do the same thing as you—get an education. You meet people from different countries and ethnicities and with different interests and talents. You are exposed to so much “new” that the world seems bigger in a way. But in this bigger world you have bigger freedoms that come with even bigger responsibilities.
You are granted the ability to think and act independently. For most of us, this taste of freedom is new. We have been influenced by our parents, our communities, and even the shows we watch. For the first times in our lives, we are able to form opinions about history, art, literature, chemistry, and politics from what we are learning, discussing, reading, writing, etc. Some opinions change, some are fortified, and some end up not as important as we originally thought.
With the election just behind us and most students eligible to vote for the first time, our political influences have forged their way to the forefront. We formed opinions about candidates, platforms, and policies, and stood by them in a way characteristic of our youthfulness. We watched a historical election happen and have been watching the results since the pivotal decision was made.
America has become a political battlefront. On campuses, in restaurants, on social media. It’s become impossible to ignore. Maybe it’s this specific election or it’s that we’re finally old enough to understand its implications, but the consequences—both positive and negative—are affecting many people, among them us.
But this is not a letter about politics. This is a letter about respect.
I believe that in the search for right and wrong in this volatile and confusing political climate, many of us have forgotten the very basic principle of respect. We are on a campus where everyone is different and it’s honestly not that hard to see those differences, whether it be gender, race, religion, etc. Our political situation is bringing those differences to light and making them a point of contention. Fresh off the election, we tend to hold our convictions close and label those who don't share the same set as "wrong" or "other" or "different." We’re young and we’re selfish, busy carrying the weight of our futures on our shoulders, but regardless of your political or economic beliefs, respect is not negotiable.
All of us are in college to do the same exact thing. We’ve all earned our place at our respective universities and had to fight through high school and our awkward phases to end up where we are.
None of us are better than the other, and we all deserve the same amount of respect. We should all expect it too.
You wouldn’t be okay if your teacher respected you less because you had a low GPA. You wouldn’t be okay if your coach treated you differently because you had a bad game. You wouldn’t be okay if the cafeteria workers locked you out of the dining hall because your family struggles with money. You wouldn’t be okay if your roommate didn't talk to you because he or she thought you weren't good looking enough. You wouldn’t be okay if you were given a harder test because your parents have money. You wouldn’t be okay if a college turned you down because you are too smart. So why would you be okay doing that to someone else?
It may be hard to respect those who don’t respect others, but we as individuals need to take initiative and set an example. Take the high road. Showing someone respect doesn’t make you weak, it makes you more respectable. And what we need right now is more respect, not another aggressive tweet or Facebook post.
We are all students, here for a singular purpose: pursuing an education. We all want to contribute to the world in some way. All of us want a stable future. That stability isn’t a guarantee for all of us, so those of us lucky to be secure in the present owe it to our peers to respect them through what could be a trying time for them. We should applaud the universities respecting and protecting their students privacy. We should respect our floor mates, classmates, teachers, acquaintances, even the strangers in passing, who may be struggling to receive what we all came here to do.
What’s happening may not affect us, but that doesn’t give us the right to ignore it. You don’t have to protest. You don’t have to share the same political, or religious beliefs. But you do need to know that if you disrespect others it only reflects poorly on you. Nobody deserves to be left out or disrespected. If we demand respect, we have to pay our dues too. It’s a hard time for many students out there. Show them you care, give them the respect that each of us, and honestly every human being deserves.