In today’s modern academic spaces, one of the most important things we talk about is identity and the formation of identity. Developing minds learning together in a common space have the potential to express themselves in many different ways. First-years, this open letter is addressed to you. In the following sentences, I will attempt to put your fears at ease, to reassure you that at Xavier University as you strive to learn more about the world, you will also be able to comfortably learn about yourself.
When I was in high school I underwent a journey of self-discovery that included finding a safe space and sticking to it. This was both a blessing and a curse, because while it demonstrated that there are communities out there that will respect you for who you are, it also demonstrated that within the confines of one community it is sometimes difficult to experience individual exploration at the same time. One of the biggest blessings for us as Xavier students is that Xavier doesn’t necessitate confined spaces for self-expression. Many classrooms, public spaces, professors and dormitories offer a chance for you to be who you are.
The positive side of this is that you have the opportunity to affirm your identities in a way that allows you to continue to be an individual. You can take classes with those of similar interests, you can seek out peer groups who share values and you can generally allow yourself to be yourself.
Now, the downside of this is that many people who occupy larger identity groups take these privileges for granted. So it is also important to recognize, respect and include identities that are different from your own. This will only serve to better round out your own identity.
So why am I writing this? This is my own personal experience after all, and maybe it’s not applicable to everyone who has gone here! Which, truth is, I understand that shortcoming of my perspective. But what I think is important to remember is that this is the kind of space that you can create just by desiring to have it at your school.
So your challenge, first-years, is to create an inclusive, inviting, informative space in which to learn not just about the world around you, but also about yourselves.
Identity becomes integrated in us when we allow it to do so. A community where repression must take place for certain members to feel comfortable is not a complete community. Therefore, we must drive as a student body, achieving excellence together in academics, athletics and extracurriculars, to also achieve excellence in ourselves.
During the upcoming school year, first-years, think about what kind of a class environment you want. You and only you have the power to build a climate of comfortable inclusion, a place where a community strives to understand its individual members better. Ultimately, this will only make your pursuit of knowledge, the journey that is college, an easier, more inviting, more fulfilling place to be.
I exhort you with the previous sentiments not because I want to sound self-righteous in my experience but because I want everyone at this university to be able to study what they love as the person that they are.
By: Max Bruns ~Copy Editor~