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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Have and Have Not

Note: This message to new students from the Dean was published in the August 21, 2009 Trinitonian.

It’s all about you today. And then, it isn’t.

Even this week, while the focus of New Student Orientation and Welcome Week programs will be about YOUR success, there will be several opportunities to focus on others (such as “service” excursions). Get used to it. At the very basic level, that focus will start with being a good roommate. Beyond that, there are expectations that you will care about others in your residence hall and embrace the opportunity to learn about others who are different than you. This will extend beyond knowing about others, but acting in ways that respect others as well.

What’s more, you will be urged to make a difference in the community and the world. There is a student group here – TUVAC – devoted simply to this. There is a staff member – Edwin Blanton – whose job is simply this. There are programs in the residence halls on homelessness, hunger, and tutoring/mentoring. Before you even arrived here you were asked to read about Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician to the poor and you will hear a talk from his colleague, Dr. David Walton, this Thursday.

This is not by accident. Colleges and universities are not value free. The good ones understand that the world is shrinking. They understand that students need and expect to be prepared to work and live in a global environment. And most importantly, these institutions strive to produce students they are proud of. This includes students who act with ethics and integrity and who focus less on their narrow self-interest and more on others with greater need. That’s what you got when you got us.

By virtue of access and support to this educational experience, all Trinity students have a great deal of privilege. This may be through hard work or an inheritance of resources from others. It may simply be the result of the good fortune to have not been born into poverty. Indeed, privilege is at its core about receiving status through plain old luck.

We have an example right here on campus today. Some students were assigned to the newly renovated Miller Hall, while across the way, Calvert residents can only wonder “what might have been.” While life is not fair sometimes, at least Calvert residents can possibly see better days in their future assignments. Not so true for those born into poverty. Fairness indeed.

In this campus community we value caring about others, and making a difference to those with less, or in need. So many of our students have changed lives by investing in others. Often times they have changed their own in the process. Perhaps you will be like them one day. By learning that it isn’t all about you, in the end, it very well could be.

2 comments:

Matrix Guy said...

I hope Calvert will get the much deserved renovation next year.

I was there last year and know what it was like to live in a hall which did not have any door to the toilet. Initially, I thought this was what people said 'culture shock' since I had come from a different nation but then realized later that it was not any less shocking to my fellow Americans either.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Calvert was amazing. The best year of my college life. Yes, it may have been run down but let's look at the many pros: the rooms are open and airy, you can climb in and out of windows, everyone sits outside on a shared balcony, there's an amazing view and it's always one big beach party. At least it was 3 years ago when I was a fresher. I know all of us that year have fond memories of Calvert, even with the cockroaches and faulty closets. We made it work and loved every minute.