Recently there has been a discussion on campus about the rifts in the Goshen College student body. I refer to the Mennonite/Non-Mennonite dichotomy in the debate over the national anthem as well as the increasing sentiment that our college’s claim of “diversity” is often an illusion as some international students are unintentionally segregated by their off-campus housing and other issues.
I have heard some proffered solutions to these distinct clefts in the student population such as Diversity Circles which has been lauded as helpful, if under-attended. I agree. However, the very overt nature of these conversations about race can be intimidating to some of us, myself included. Some say that the administration should offer more housing aid to international students so that they can live on campus and be more integrated into campus life. I agree with this as well, but there is by no means a completely unified on-campus body either.
What Goshen students need, I think, are opportunities to interact with fellow students with different backgrounds in casual settings. To counteract the stubborn divides that are evident, we need to create crosscutting identities based on real common ground. I suggest that such clique-defying associations could come from simple leisure activities that we already enjoy. Those on campus who enjoy board games such as chess, checkers or backgammon should make a habit of playing in public areas like the connector and invite others to join them. Every so often, students should take advantage of the kitchens provided them and share a meal with whoever is around.
More importantly, when these events are planned in advance or take place on a regular basis, it would be great to see a general invitation in the communicator, or posters put up in the union, cafeteria and commuter lounge as well as the dorm bulletin boards. This goes for pre-existing traditions such as pick-up games of soccer, ultimate frisbee and rugball. Intramural sports, already scheduled and organized, should randomize teams rather than asking whole teams to sign up.
My wish is not to admonish students for spending time with their friends. There are many times when an activity will be more fun if you’re surrounded by people you know well. I just ask that every so often, students consider including the greater campus in their free-time activities. And I invite you all to add your own flavor to Goshen College’s traditions. Have a weekly pillow fight with your floor mates. If you are jogging and see a fellow Maple Leaf, join them for the rest of their run. Community is a cause we can all rally behind. Diversity is here, but a salad’s no good until it’s tossed.
Ted Maust is a second year.