By Hunter Johnson
The University of Dallas fosters the sort of student you can’t find at many other schools. We don’t just read the classics: we learn from the classics. Courses here don’t just challenge our skills and abilities; they also challenge us to examine ourselves and our inner beliefs.
Or, at least, that’s what the curriculum is meant to do. It is true, at least as far as I can tell, that I have changed a lot since I first drove here from Vicksburg, Miss. four years ago. I have UD to thank for that; there’s no question that the classes, activities, Rome semester and working with The University News have shaped me incredibly. I’m extremely grateful for the short time I was able to spend here.
There is something about UD, though, that can aggravate me like nothing else: the Bubble. It’s not so much the “physical” Bubble that irks me; it’s fortunate that UD is located fairly close to the bustle of city life while being isolated enough for students to enjoy a peaceful and relatively safe environment. More accurately, it is the atmosphere that can be created inside the Bubble that has me concerned for the student body.
This is a school that aims for the high ground, a school that tries to run, not crawl, out of Plato’s cave. In so many ways we succeed in this goal, and in so many ways we fail. There have been many times when subjects perfect for discussion in such an intellectual community are either shut down for being unpopular or ignored altogether.
The goal of The University News is to report what is current, share relevant and interesting information and to keep its readers knowledgeable about their community. My own goal with the News has been to highlight stories and events that, in the past, often slipped by without the slightest recognition from the campus community.
Our first edition this year featured a cover story about a documentary on two local girls who died in an honor killing. By reaching beyond the Bubble in our first edition, we started a year where the News made a point to show how life outside of the Bubble matters to UDers. We looked at issues like Ebola and Islam in Irving with the hope that the students could put them into perspective with their own lives.
We also tackled some touchy topics that, to state the obvious, occasionally did stir up heated debate: the change in the Charity Week jail policy; the performance of “Candide” at a Catholic university; Aramark and meal plans; LGBT students on campus. It is not the role of the newspaper to make people angry or start movements, but I will say that I was pleased to see these topics discussed vibrantly because it meant that people at UD were actually paying attention to what was happening around them.
Unfortunately, while there were people willing to look at and analyze these issues, there were always many who did not want to have a discussion at all. On the campus-wide level, people told me that the newspaper was trying to sabotage Charity Week by bringing the jail changes to light. Others were mortified that we would even write about the situation LGBT students face here, saying that such subjects have no place at a Catholic university.
I also find it is incredibly rare to see the student body caring about big issues beyond campus besides abortion and other subjects closely related to the Church. I wrote about this in a commentary piece last year, but you probably won’t find students here protesting about things like human rights or foreign wars. Obviously UD is not as large as other schools where such protests can be found, but the relative silence on campus on a variety of topics can give one the sense that students just don’t care.
In short, we have a student body that erupts when some potential controversial issues are presented to it and shrugs off other subjects entirely. There is a desire on campus to keep the status quo at the cost of being aware of and invested in the larger picture.
I’ll admit that this could be a problem with our generation as a whole, but is it not the goal of our student body to be above average? Why don’t we challenge ourselves to beat the status quo rather than embrace it?
It’s time for the student body at UD to stop shunning difficult and, at times, uncomfortable topics of discussion. It’s time that students stop behaving as if the world beyond their own lives is unimportant. When it comes to events and issues on and off of campus, people here will often say, “I’m just too busy with schoolwork,” or, “I really don’t have time to do anything else.” I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve said these things myself, and I’m not proud of that. But we can’t just keep hiding behind these words, hiding behind our schedules and isolation on campus. We can’t hide here forever, as some of us seniors are realizing.
The UD culture fosters a lot of creativity and independent thought, but it also fosters an atmosphere of personal isolation. Furthermore, this atmosphere seems to strengthen while the “physical” Bubble around UD continues to shrink. Sooner or later, the student body has to adopt an open, aware mindset if it ever wants to make a difference in the world it spends so much time studying.
Sooner or later, we all have to practice what we preach.