When some of my friends who live off campus ask me why I still live in the same dorm I lived in as a freshman, I usually tell the story of when I first knew I was meant to be a Simpsonite — my very first Homecoming Week. I can even remember the exact moment I had the epiphany.
All of the Homecoming teams from across campus were lining up for the parade before the football game. Most of the teams, from the Greek houses to Olds Residence, were already in their assigned positions, chanting their own spirit week chants.
Needless to say, the men of Simpson weren’t quite as organized. Even though we were spread out across the lawn in front of Central Hall, we all heard it when then-Resident Assistant Connor Gleason ‘15, shouted the first line of Simpson’s iconic chant:
“Blood makes the grass grow!”
A crazed horde of what sounded like hundreds screamed in reply: “Kill, kill, kill!” I still vividly recall the shocked, scandalized faces of sorority girls standing next to us.
That memory of Homecoming Week sticks with me because that was the moment in which I realized that I was part of something I could be proud of, something striving toward excellence. I realized I belonged to a community.
In the “Politics,” Aristotle said, “Though the city originates for the sake of staying alive, it exists for the sake of living well.”
For Aristotle and his students, including all of us studying the Western heritage, that means communities are devoted to a common good — the virtuous life.
Simpson is a community where boys become men. We goof off, we take competitions too seriously, and we sometimes break the rules. But we also raise money for charity, help each other with homework, and participate in weekly Bible studies.
I’ve learned more about what it means to be human in the halls of Simpson than anywhere else — all from friendships I’ve made over my three years in the dorm. When I was a freshman, the upperclassmen I lived with guided me through some of those tough moments we all experience our first year. Now, as an upperclassman living on a hall with more than a dozen freshmen, I have the same opportunity with a new generation.
For Simpsonites, our dorm is the most Hillsdale part of Hillsdale. Walking down to football games together, competing in Homecoming, prank wars, late nights spent in deep conversation — that’s what college is meant to be.
For other students, the most Hillsdale part of Hillsdale could be a Greek house, an extracurricular club, a church group, or another dorm on campus. These groups at Hillsdale can teach us each about what it means live in community with others.
Western civilization, as any number of angry-sounding conservative commentators will happily bemoan, has forgotten its purpose. In the shadow of this crisis even Hillsdale students, who represent the remnant of a more sincere age, often roll their eyes at high-minded ideas like virtue, goodness, truth, and beauty. The transcendent has become cliche, and we’ve been trained to blunt that harsh fact with a thick layer of irony.
Liberal education aims at exploring the transcendent. By embracing our campus groups, we can recover a sincere devotion to that principle. So, freshmen, humor your RA and go to your hall events. Find a Bible study and commit to it. Go find upperclassmen and listen to what they can teach you.
Upperclassmen, you have a responsibility to the freshmen. Seek them out, be there for them, especially during these early months in a strange place far from home. Give them some of your hard-won wisdom, and maybe even learn a few lessons from them in turn.
Everyone at Hillsdale is seeking the Good. I haven’t found a definition with the kind of rigor that would satisfy Dr. Arnn yet. But, during my years here, the closest I’ve gotten is Simpson.