As I contemplate my impending graduation in a matter of hours, I find myself wondering what Wes will be in the next semester and beyond. What should Wes be?
Wesleyan is not a perfect place, and only our Admissions brochures pretend that that’s the case. We’ve got problems, big problems. We’ve got deep, meaty, institutional problems. We’ve got acrid, calcifying, traditional problems. We’ve got murky, messy, cultural problems. For the moment I’ll let you define precisely what those are–the point is, Wes is not a perfect place. We all spend days here unhappy, frustrated, hurt. And by and large, we try to change that.
That’s a long, lonely road, but a good one.
Here at Wes we talk about the “real world” a lot. The real world is considered something removed, a thing to be studied, discussed, objectified. That’s okay, sometimes–Wes is in many senses an isolated island with the real world’s waves ever so gently lapping its shores, experiencing only the occasional tsunami–but sometimes that can lead to our misunderstanding of our connections to the real world and, more importantly, our place in it.
The real world is a fucked up place, and here at Wes we have constructed a comparatively better society. That dichotomy is something we have a fundamental obligation to understand. Why is Wes a better place? What makes it so? The follow-up question is perhaps more important: how can we successfully acknowledge that privilege and contribute positively to the betterment of the real world?
Wes doesn’t prepare you for the real world, not really. Nor should it. Precisely because Wesleyan is a bit of an isolated island with a tight-knit community, we are afforded incredible opportunity for the development of positive community change–and that change can have echoes in the real world, too. At its best, Wesleyan should not prepare you for the real world by mimicking it and providing an obstacle-course training exercise designed to teach you how to live in the real world. That benefits only the status quo.
Instead, the Wesleyan experience should teach you to effect meaningful progress here on campus and in our community, grow your knowledge and understanding of Wes within a broader society, and provide you with the tools and experience to create progress around the globe.
That ideal depends on you. You have a responsibility to this community to make it better, just as you have that responsibility to world.
So, I ask again: what should Wes be? Let’s build that.