On Our Fear of Commitment

Posted by The Editorial Board

It is a source of pride, among Skidmore students, that we do not participate in Greek Life on campus. For many schools, Fraternities and Sororities serve as a catalyst for the development of communities, of maintaining and perpetuating relationships in otherwise non-cohesive student bodies. The culture that surrounds a football team provides a similar effect - it establishes a major unifying factor for students, manifested in an overwhelming sense of school pride. At Skidmore we would like to think that this aspect of unity exists on campus, without either a football team, or the added structure of Greek organization-that there are fundamental things that tie us together without the need to invoke the Greek alphabet.      

Despite whatever flaws Greek Life may have - hazing, elitist complexes, increased alcohol abuse - it does serve as a source of pride for other campuses. The foundations of Greek organizations lie in legacy, in age-old tradition and the perpetuation of custom and reputation. This is what provides all the benefits of post-college Greek networking-Greek pride lasts. This begs the question, then: what aspects of community are constants on Skidmore's campus?

We seem entirely capable of rallying and unifying when this refers to the short term. Each time the housing lottery begins there is some version of the "Change Res Life" movement on campus. Students acknowledge the flaws in the Residential Life department and quickly congregate and voice their dissatisfaction, however, this dies out once the dust of housing selection settles. There is a major increase in political activity when election season approaches, but these various movements and discussions die out as forums for political expression and activity once the electoral excitement fades.        

The Divestment campaign, enormously prominent on campus a month ago, has already begun to dwindle out of student conversations. While the task force continues to work, the general student collective seems to have lost interest. Prior to the divestment campaign, the Environmental Action Club focused largely on turning student attention towards hydrofracking, an awareness campaign that was immediately overshadowed when Divestment grew more thrilling. Union movements on the campus, prominent earlier this year, seem to have slowly worked their way out of the spotlight. That is not to say that these movements no longer exist, but rather, that active, widespread student support in these areas diminishes all too quickly.

It is evident that we have the power to unite and to rally when we so choose. With the introduction of Cynthia Carroll as commencement speaker last year, we saw a large constituency of students rally together to battle the administration for what they thought to be a disregard of their rights and opinions. The problem is, however, that these movements are fleeting-they do not last. The very things that bring us together, the way many schools affiliate under the titles of Fraternities or Sororities, are temporal. We are inconsistent. Perhaps student apathy is not the problem, but more so, the transience of our devotions.        

The Student Government Association charters numerous clubs each year, many of which do not outlive their founders. Club email lists are exponentially greater than the actual attendance of these club meetings and events. The outing club email list is in the triple digits, but it is merely a fraction of these students who do, in fact, make it to the meetings, or wake up in time for the hikes. The number of students who meet weekly for Students United for Public Education has gone from an enthusiastic twenty-five or thirty students, to a dedicated three or four. It is not that students are not excited, that they don't wish to engage or make change, but rather, that they don't stick around. They do not keep focused, sustained interest or devotion to one club, cause, or aspect of community on campus. It seems that the Skidmore community has a problem not with apathy, but with commitment.        

Greek Life gives students a timeless association - it is an incredibly consistent, cohesive element to student culture. Football teams give entire student bodies a reason to congregate - a common source of pride. We should be proud that we do not need Greek life or winning teams on campus to maintain community, but as a result, we should work on this fear of commitment-we should find reasons to unite that are not time-sensitive. We can only hope that efforts such as the minimum wage movement, the Divestment task force, and the Real Food Challenge will sustain themselves within the student body with the same momentum they enjoyed at their start. If what we seek is a greater sense of pride, of identity, of motivation, it is crucial that we start committing to some brand of lasting change.

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