Letter to the Editor

To the editor,

In response to Jacob Martin’s column from the Sept. 19, 2014 issue,

It’s Humans Versus Zombies season again. Jacob Martin lamented that Case Western Reserve University students get worked up about only Greek Life. Well you can add HvZ, too. But this letter is concerned with why CWRU students seem not to care about community issues, not Nerf dart pollution.

I had a heated debate over public transportation versus cars, CWRU’s building campaign and CWRU students’ cultures with a friend this week. Despite the fact that we had vastly different opinions on these issues, we both based our observations on real world observations, facts and experience gained from being in and around Cleveland. It was truly a conversation that could only happen here, with two people passionately arguing their particular views on niche subjects.

The previous letter argued CWRU students seem to only care about their own niche interests and not about larger issues affecting their whole community. My friend brought up an interesting point: CWRU kids hardly care enough to drag themselves to eat, why should we expect them to? CWRU is, gratefully, not a party school, and it is true students do spend an awful amount of time studying indoors to begin with.

But once the studying ends, they often take up Call of Duty or marathon television. I’m not much of a gamer anymore, as I can’t sit through more than three episodes of much, but I used to. CWRU taught me not only how to study, but also how to interact with the community around me. It did mean I had to drop the controller and set out on Euclid Avenue, then beyond, but it happened. That’s how I gathered the facts and observations to have that initial debate, and that’s what CWRU should encourage more of.

I was lucky, however, because I had professors who encouraged me to explore beyond academics and the walls of my dorm. In some ways, CWRU already does this, with Greek groups requiring volunteering and other efforts. But these lack something. Not everyone is Greek, and not everyone goes to those volunteer fairs. The fact is, CWRU is a school that draws its students from pools of shut-ins to begin with. We give them a good academic base, but hardly a social base. Cleveland was founded on ideals of civic engagement and social responsibility. If we can teach students quantum mechanics and the details of English literature, we can do the same for civic engagement.

Cities are unique human experiences where people interact with friends and strangers in the bump and shove of life. Perhaps SAGES classes, already required, should walk students down the streets of Cleveland sometimes and point out potential sources of social and civic engagement. Or, CWRU’s tours could actually leave campus to show people the city they will educate themselves in. That is, spend time treating engagement like academics.

We don’t have to give up our campus feel, but we can integrate ourselves better into the community. It’s already evident CWRU kids won’t do it purely on their own, and a university like CWRU should educate us all in being productive citizens, ready to engage the world around us, but still ready to play with darts.

Zak Khan
Class of 2014