Madeline Respeliers, Contributing Writer
In an article I wrote after Groundhog, I said: “Upperclassmen do not realize the immense power they have to transform UD.” As a senior nearing her expiration date, I feel this now deserves a follow-up.
Every year at Commencement, the University of Dallas confers the Helen L. Corbitt Award to “a senior woman and a senior man who, while at UD, produced an outstanding set of achievements that enriched the life of the University.”
While this statement should be cause for reflection for my class, for most of us it is too late for that reflection to lead to fruitful action. We already missed or embraced our chances to start clubs, chair committees, run for student government or be the face of campus.
Our senioritis is brought about mainly by impotence. Any impact we have in this last month will largely be entropic, defined by the person whom, over the course of the past four years, we have chosen to be to the university. Our real drive to affect life at UD is gone.
The people who really need to reflect on the Helen L. Corbitt Award are not those who have a past here, but those who have a future. Rising classes, your time is now. My challenge to you is to look long and hard at who we are as a senior class, and ask yourself if we are a model you would like to emulate, or if there is a different legacy you would like to leave behind.
I love my school, and I love the wonderful people with whom I have been blessed to spend four years, but loving does not mean I am always proud of them. Do I think UD has a huge drinking problem? No. But, as evidenced by the film festival, I think alcohol has a disproportionately large representation in the culture of our campus and our class.
I realize that I am not a typical member of the class of 2014: As someone who will be joining a convent after graduation, my skirts are about to become about as long as they can get. I also realize that many of the films were very hyperbolic in their references to alcohol; my intent is not to treat comedy as a documentary. Yet I ask: Why is that the aspect of our class we choose to glorify?
Perhaps alcohol has enriched our experience and our camaraderie, but is that how we have enriched UD? I speak with confidence when I say that there are far better things the class of 2014 has to celebrate, and that the majority of us would like to have a different legacy than “we can throw a killer party.”
But if we wanted a different legacy, did we do anything to ensure it would be left, or did we leave the shaping of our legacy to be done by others?
When I look back on my career at UD, it’s easy for me to see places where I could have served something larger, but instead chose to serve myself. The thing is that the “typical” UD student often gets under-represented in roles of service to the university because typical UD students are too concerned with their own GPAs. Freshman year we listen dutifully as Plato says, “Society most needs those least inclined to serve it,” yet few of us act. Secondly, the typical UD student is drawn to the university for reasons quite different from what our institutional culture emphasizes. The submissions to Film Fest this year are like a cross-cut of the deepest dichotomies of UD’s soul.
As a university we lack a unified campus community that transcends our separate classes. I would argue that this is because the majority of our campus is not deeply attracted to the community-building opportunities that are given to it. Yet the independent thinkers of UD need to realize they are the majority and stop fatalistically accepting that some aspects of UD are not to their taste. To truly be an independent thinker is not to cease to participate in a culture when it fails to suit you, but to dare to dream that you can change it. Our campus motto should be a call for us to constantly challenge and reevaluate the status quo.
Freshmen, sophomores, juniors: Each and every one of you has a legacy to leave that will enrich UD. Can you believe in your beauty enough to give it? Leadership applications for a lot of positions around campus are open or looming.
When you graduate, will you receive the Corbitt award?