A call for campus-wide culture change

The meaning of Spartan life

Jacob Martin

Her eyes were hidden behind dark, round aviators. She had on a blue-gray varsity athlete track jacket, and her hair was flowing freely in the wind. Despite her shades and the impossibility of assured eye-contact, she smiled at me as we passed one another Tuesday on Euclid Avenue. I smiled back.

I had no way of knowing whether she was laughing at me, mildly intrigued or just plain friendly. For all I know I had a stain on my sweater or my fly was undone; all

I know is that she smiled, and I smiled back.

Sometimes life’s most seemingly insignificant moments have the power to elevate and inspire, prompting you to think about something only thinly related in a new way.

That girl’s smile made me think about our campus community and society in general.

Case Western Reserve University is in need of a major culture change.

Last week, Vice President for Student Affairs Lou Stark wrote as a guest opinion columnist in this paper. He talked about how our campus came together at the death of four undergraduates in the first week of classes and fell apart with the posting of anonymous racial Yik Yak comments two months later. He talked about President Barbara Snyder’s subsequent condemnation email of the latter and the merits and shortcomings of social media. He talked about how students can build a better community through dialogue and learning and how it is up to us to either change or accept the community we have.

His column was titled “Make it the community you want.” So what community do we want? Should we change anything? What would we keep, and what would we change? What should our community look like?

Case Western Reserve University is in need of a major culture change.

Something needs to happen at the student and administrative levels because blatant racism and rampant ignorance aren’t the hallmarks of education. They’re the antithesis of education, the stains of idiocy.

We claim to have a strong set of communal values, but where can I find out about them? Unless a student was industrious enough to scour the CWRU website for these statements of purpose and core values he would have no way of knowing what they were. Enter ignorance.

We also claim to be a diverse, integrated, globalized and inclusive campus, yet we have students posting anonymous comments condemning these very points and an obvious divide between whites and blacks, U.S.-born and international students. Enter racism.

Furthermore, the university is doing little to properly prepare for such a diverse climate. If an 18-year-old from America has never met an 18-year-old from China, what do you think is going to happen when they come face to face? Nothing. Just because you have a little of X and a little of Y and you put them in the same vicinity doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a new product Z. Enter idiocy.

We treat new students like twelve-year-olds, sheltering them further from the realities of CWRU and college life.

If CWRU wants to be the place its website and literature and tour guides propagandize it to be, it needs to start instilling these core values, beliefs and visions
into students before they get to campus.

In the accepted student welcome packet these things need to be major highlights. Admitted students should know these are the things we stand for, these are the things we believe in here, and this is who we are.

During orientation there needs to be a move away from treating college freshmen like high school freshmen. Actually, I don’t remember having my hand held as much during my high school orientation. We treat new students like twelve-year-olds, sheltering them further from the realities of CWRU and college life until they are apathetic, jaded upperclassmen ready to take their piece of paper in its overpriced frame and leave.

These are just some ways to indoctrinate students into a culture of acceptance and true diversity. But the work isn’t done there. I can’t say how many times I’ve walked down the binary walkway or through Mather Quad, made eye contact with a student or even an adult, smiled and had them look away. I can’t say how many times the other person wouldn’t make eye contact in the first place. The merciless clock ticks faster than the patter of feet, and headphones block out everything else. A simple smile is no longer important.

I hope the measly smile I managed to flash to the young athlete made her feel the same way hers made me feel. The entire exchange happened in about two seconds, so even if she happened to read this she probably wouldn’t know I was talking about her, but that’s okay because recognition isn’t the point; the gesture itself is. The smallest effort of turning one’s mouth up is the point.

Unfortunately, common courtesy gestures on campus are endangered and on the road to extinction. We don’t hold doors, say hi to people we meet or smile when we see them pass right by. We need a campus marked by love and compassion. We need administrators to help actualize this and students who believe it. Until then, try to smile.

Jacob Martin is a weekly opinion columnist. He absolutely loves the revamped case.edu website. Marketing at its finest: statistics, rankings and money everywhere! Nothing like showing our values to the world.