I wrote an article earlier this semester about why athletes at John Brown University deserve more support than they currently get. I made an effort to tie in unity of the school and to help bring all of us together. However, I must admit that when I wrote the article, unity was not my main focus. The majority of my friends here on campus are athletes and I thought it would be great if I used my voice to help my friends. However, after seeing the responses my article generated, not only from athletes or other current students but also coaches and graduates from JBU, I can see where I struck the tip of a much deeper issue.
Our school is very diverse. Although JBU is a small Christian school in Northwest Arkansas, it represents a multiplicity of different backgrounds, upbringings and ethnicities. Our students have very different personalities, areas of study and interests. There are students of many age groups, from undergraduate freshmen to middle aged non-traditional students. We also represent 40 states and 37 countries, all in around 2,500 students.
JBU faces some challenges because of its diversity. Many faces in our JBU family struggle to fit in, to find their niche, to feel like a part of the community. As a result, I think many struggle to enjoy the college experience here because they spend the whole time convincing themselves they are worthy of belonging.
As I noticed this in some of the responses I saw and the conversations I had following my original article, it broke my heart to see the divide. I know from experience that the culture here can feel judgmental and suffocating at times. Personally, my struggle with fitting in just translated to taking more time to find friends who thought like me. There wasn’t much pain for me when it came to this.
When I saw other responses though, I could see that this had been a real problem. Our disconnect as a student body is something that really hurt others. Not fitting in at JBU caused them real grief and stress. I had been blind to how deep the problem went for some people.
I am not going to pretend I know how to fix it or that I really know the cause of it. I do partially believe this illusion of a perfect community causes some people to overlook the good aspects of the community we do have. I also think sometimes as students we forget that the JBU community isn’t what they talk about in chapel, or what the school promotes on loop on the TVs. The community here is us. Whether a student feels like it or not, he or she is, by definition, a part of the community.
We need to realize we are a family. God brought us all here for a reason, why not make an effort to enjoy chapel, open dorm and doing life together while we’re here?
As I said before, going to the games and supporting the athletes is a great place to start! “Every journey begins with a single step.” We have a long way to go, and there are many things that need improvement, but maybe starting by supporting the athletic teams can bring a new wave of support all across our university.