by Atlas Dwyer
It’s January 29 as I start to write this Viewpoint — I had to press “tab” to insert the date on my keyboard because I can’t keep the days straight. Every day seems to bleed into the same dreary gray, dripping from one to the next without a glimmer of new color or interest. This is not an original experience — for me or anyone else. It’s almost mindless for those who have been in college for a while now; whatever you need to do, you do it to get to the next day. Living becomes a game of reaching checkpoints, especially during the winter. Especially when it’s cold and miserable inside and outside and everybody is trying to cope with the desire for change.
In my time at Wooster, I’ve seen heavy change in a short amount of time alongside most of my classmates. We arrived right on the heels of the administration scrambling to make changes around COVID-19, experiencing a sharp influx of negative repercussions as the school lost money and tried to recoup their losses. We saw our main campus building go through an unprecedented evolution, watched as the only campus dining option was splintered, outsourced and rebuilt from scratch, dealt with a flood of anonymous online message boards (and the subsequent gossip, bullying and weaponization of names and faces) and most especially, struggled with a new environment and the demands of being a college student, on top of all of these other challenges.
Small campuses, especially post-COVID, are dealing with an incredibly strange counterbalance of an isolated system where everyone is watching each other. Wooster is a prime case study of this. While we feel like campus is isolated and bare, at the same time it feels like everyone knows what everyone else is doing, saying and thinking; It’s connection with no connection. It’s overwhelming, and heightens the feelings of hopelessness, apathy, irritation and frustration of being on a small campus right now.
What’s ironic is that a lot of us know that our experiences are not unique; many of us feel it, talk about it and want to fix it. This is the key to the case for more hope on campus — finding solidarity in our struggles. It can be incredibly hard, but it is possible. Hope thrives in an environment that allows people to collaborate, share, interact and grow together in an open space. Hope is fueled by community. I define “hope” as the opposite of the attitude I described earlier: a mourning, miserable disconnection from reality, with the goal of not thinking too much about where you are and what you are doing. Hope is the belief that tomorrow will be a better day than today, and that today isn’t so terrible (despite us all being stuck in Ohio).
At the end of the day, a campus is its people. It’s the students, faculty and staff that can make or break a campus community, and the hope I have for Wooster grows every day when I see the current members of our community. Community isn’t an abstract concept in space; community is a consistent action of bridging gaps with people. Sometimes it’s as simple as just acknowledging what we’re feeling and seeing who else can lend a shoulder to help us persevere.
While making these meaningful connections is difficult, they are essential for finding a way out of the funk. Even if you engage with the community in the smallest ways, having the intention of making those small, bright moments more common strengthens the case for hope on campus, as well as our ability to continue building that community up.