Just four short weeks ago, Holy Cross came together as a community and attended up to three workshops with topics ranging from empathy on campus to sexual assault and how it has come to appear in our everyday lives. This community-wide event was called the ENGAGE: Summit and it was created as a response to a letter from a student calling for action and asking the staff to do, well… more. With the Summit in our rearview mirror and a long break from Holy Cross approaching, what are the major takeaways from that day and how have they affected campus a month later?
Although the Summit was not required by the College, there was an atmosphere of true solidarity and community on campus that Friday afternoon. I felt it personally amongst friends and classmates, and even from those I did not know in sessions I attended. There was a hunger for action and a call to Holy Cross staff, students and faculty to step up and make a change in the campus climate. In the weeks following the Summit, there have been more emails and efforts to create a more comprehensive Title IX office, as well as the SGA Skimm, a monthly-debrief about the happenings on campus.
There is still room for improvement and development regarding diversity and inclusion for all groups, whether they be based on sexual orientation, race, or gender, on campus, but so much of the responsibility still falls on the students. The improvements from campus groups and faculty leaves much of campus hopeful, but the student community still sometimes falls short. So, what can we, as Holy Cross students, do to make the campus climate more welcoming and inclusive?
Both on and off campus, empathy is key to not only making others feel welcome but making the attempt to understand what another community is going through. While there is no way to truly grasp what a group you do not identify with is going through, becoming an ally and advocating for others is essential to create progress and change.
Likewise, college students (myself included) can often get wrapped up in their own day-to-day activities, falling victim to a routine with little time for things other than social lives and homework. When students break the routine and step away from their standard lifestyles and attend a talk, event, or even a new club meeting on campus, you make a difference, even if it is just the slightest one. Challenging yourself as a member of this community has a trickle-down effect. Sharing these experiences with friends and classmates can lead to a greater change in activism on campus and introduce students to new faces and names.
There is constantly more work to be done and more ways to improve. It can be as simple as taking a step out of your comfort zone and talking to someone who does not look like you or think like you. There is something to be said for making connections outside of that bubble we are all so guilty of putting ourselves into. In this sense, the Summit stayed true to its name. It is time to start engaging and stop complacently letting acts of hate and discrimination occur on campus every day.
Like it or not, hate happen here, and on college campuses across the nation, whether it be through offensive jokes or even violent hate crime. Letting ourselves become bystanders will never bring about change and progress; if you are not stepping up to fix the problem, then frankly, you have become part of the problem. So, in the next few weeks, take the time to become an activist, an ally, and an agent of change. It is our responsibility as students now more than ever to make this campus a climate where individuals from all walks of life feel safe.