Courtesy | Hannah Weikart

Over spring break I stayed in Hillsdale for the mis­sions trip put on by Inter­Varsity. Though I was in the same town, I was in another world.

I found myself in many uncom­fortable but stretching sit­u­a­tions. We vol­un­teered at the Sal­vation Army kitchen, the High Rise apartment building, and a school for special needs children, among several other places.

The events of this past year, coupled with being out in the com­munity, con­firmed the need for a con­ver­sation on Hillsdale’s campus con­cerning two issues: priv­ilege and per­spective. We can pass our entire days in a few square miles of land without having to be bothered by the people of the town who are gra­cious enough to host our edu­cation. This sense of insu­larity is toxic to our edu­cation because we fail to encounter our priv­ilege and con­sider dif­ferent per­spec­tives and views holis­ti­cally.  

In essence, priv­ilege is an advantage or immunity granted to a spe­cific group of people by society. But it wasn’t until I took a class on crime and pun­ishment with Pro­fessor Sudds and I learned about the cycles of crime and hardship that char­ac­terize some com­mu­nities that I realized my own narrow per­spective and clear priv­ilege in life. While we shouldn’t feel guilty about our priv­ilege, we should most def­i­nitely be aware of the obvious and hidden ways in which we benefit from it.

Unfor­tu­nately, even this idea threatens con­ser­v­a­tives when it should not. How is it threat­ening to say that I might have been blessed with certain attributes or cir­cum­stances?

In a culture where the use of “hashtag blessed” is rampant in our everyday, ironic jargon, why is priv­ilege so scary?

People don’t like the term ”priv­i­leged” because as soon as they accept that they are in fact priv­i­leged, they might feel a call to action they would rather avoid.

I find it ironic that con­ser­v­a­tives hold small gov­ernment values yet reject the idea of priv­ilege.

If we don’t want the gov­ernment inter­fering in our lives except to pre­serve our rights to life, liberty and property, we need to be respon­sible. We need to rec­ognize the mis­fortune of others and take it upon our­selves to act to ensure that the gov­ernment does not.

As Hillsdale puts it on its website, front and center, “freedom can only last if you and I choose to act as people of char­acter.”
People are suf­fering. But the con­ser­v­ative, Christian people of Hillsdale College often elect to talk over that suf­fering rather than act as Christ did.

On the mis­sions trip I noticed that under­priv­i­leged com­mu­nities biggest needs are rela­tional — just sitting and lis­tening to a senior citizen or engaging with a child.

Senior Alexis Garcia, the GOAL Program Director, said while the culture of vol­un­teerism at Hillsdale is flour­ishing, she said the child men­toring and tutoring pro­grams are the most in need of vol­un­teers. Yet vol­un­teering with these pro­grams is the easiest ways to give: Despite our young age and minimal life expe­ri­ences, we can have so much to con­tribute to and invest in people.

To meet the ever-present and urgent need for engagement in the com­munity of Hillsdale, we first need to go into the com­munity. Second, we must stop dis­missing people’s per­spec­tives without seeking to under­stand them. I encourage you to listen to indi­viduals and take their stories into account. We need to stop talking over each other and open up to pro­ductive con­ver­sation with the goal of learning more about indi­viduals dif­ferent from our­selves.

As Hillsdale stu­dents we will go on to wield a dis­pro­por­tionate amount of power — as we have seen in the Trump admin­is­tration already. We need to be aware. We need to be respon­sible, self-gov­erning cit­izens. We need to engage with the world.

We claim to pursue truth at Hillsdale. This would be the ultimate pursuit. One that doesn’t need books, but eyes and ears. We need to unleash the ideas that we learn and are chal­lenged by in the classroom for the benefit of those who do not have the priv­ilege to learn that we have.

Ms. Hurley is a senior studying soci­ology and social thought.