Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Artificial Community

College is an amazingly strange experience. There seems to me to be mounting evidence that college really IS disconnected from the 'real world' (and not just the TV show). Take the idea of community: an RA friend of mine and I were talking about how to build community in a residence hall floor (at Geneva you cannot call them 'dorms'). We both realized that there really were no clear direction or goal for the idea. Most community building, therefore, ends up being either a complete failure or a superficial gesture which lasts until the end of the year or semester. Possibly something might last the whole 4 years, but as people move to different places and such, the community breaks apart, only to be relived at sporadic spurts over a beer--if even that.

Right now, for the class I am TAing, we are reading Les and Leslie Parrott's Relationships. One of the things they say is that college students are the most relationally starved people. From what I wrote above, I don't doubt it. The question is, how do we start to change that? I think, for starters, that the college itself needs to become a true community. Relationships between faculty and staff, professors and student affairs workers; relationships between the college and surrounding community and environment; relationships between teachers and students, students and townspeople, students and students all need to be built up and nurtured. The Parrotts talk about babies left on their own, without human contact, die. I think no matter how old you are, the same thing happens with relationships. If we get people together in community, if they have no dialogue or interest in the relationship, it will die. Or, to put it in a slightly subversive way, if we only meet on Sundays for an hour or two (where we aren't allowed to talk anyway) and then expect to be a vibrant, faithful family, it won't work.

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