An open letter to the staff and students of GC

An open letter to the staff and students of GC

Joanna Epp

Contributing Writer

jaepp@goshen.edu

Joanna Epp, a senior, reflects on her involvement in campus life over the years.  Photo by Hannah Sauder

Joanna Epp, a senior, reflects on her involvement in campus life over the years.
Photo by Hannah Sauder

Hello, GC community.

Many of you may not know me. I am a senior, with just two weeks left in my career as a student at Goshen College.

In my first two years, I was very involved on campus. Connecting with fellow students and staff members passionate about the same things as me gave me a sense of purpose, so I quickly got involved in music, sports, Student Senate, campus jobs and clubs. I was your typical overinvolved and proudly busy GC student.

I don’t say this to brag about my involvement—it did not last.

After my sophomore year, I began to quit all of the activities I had so enthusiastically and purposefully joined. I stepped down from Senate and stopped attending club events. I quit 2 of my campus jobs. I quit the tennis team, and orchestra. I stopped being involved in campus life.

Now, as a senior, I see people, old friends, on campus and they say, “You still go here?”

I had become very disillusioned with Goshen College and the values it represents. I felt bitter and angry towards the college as an institution for ways I that sensed it was discriminatory towards students and those faculty/staff not in the inner PC circle.

I felt defeated by the institution. I felt there was no point in me being involved, for I could not make any difference.

I still feel this anger and frustration.

But I also recall wise words from a friend. He said at one time he was very disillusioned with the Mennonite church as an institution. He began to hate the church, and to distance himself from it.

An admired professor approached him one day and said, “I see you are disillusioned with the church as an institution. You now have two choices. You can remove yourself from the institution, and bitterly hate it from afar. Or, you can stay in the institution, and work for positive change from within. The choice is yours to make.”

The choice was mine to make, and I believe I made the wrong choice.

I gave up and cynically observed from afar. I now regret this.

So, as I am leaving, I wish to challenge every single person on this campus. Keep fighting for institutional change, for that in which you believe wholly and passionately.

If you are not yet fighting, start. Conduct your fight in a respectful manner. If you see an injustice occurring, it is your duty to address it in a way that still honors the person committing this injustice. We must respect each other even as we disagree passionately.

This is very important to remember. No positive change can occur in an environment where both parties do not feel safe.

Colleges are a unique setting. They are a hotbed of hormones, new ideas and simmering social rage; and on top of that, everyone lives together.

But, there is a four-year cycle of students. That is the only reason colleges can exist, because even the most troublesome students will be gone in four years.

In my time at GC, I have seen so many movements rise up and then fail, as the champions of the movement graduate and move on with their lives.

Recently, I have felt an increase in the awareness of issues on campus, the pushing for change.

I feel an energy building up, an energy from students who are willing to challenge the wrongs they see. I see students pushing for transparency and accountability in incredibly important social issues.

I am only now coming to a disturbing realization: I have wasted my time here at GC, content to stew in my frustration without making an effort to change the things that frustrated me.

I hope that by writing this, I can convince you to do what I did not.

Make the choice, GC. Get involved. Work for positive change within our institution.

Record
Record
Written by Record

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