By the end of freshman orientation you’ve learned to roll your eyes at “the Good,” even though you still don’t know what you’ll say when Dr. Arnn corners you. On the first day of journalism class, students swear to avoid the good, the true, and the beautiful, and all of its friends in their articles. And when it’s not dismissed as cliché, partnership is often viewed as propaganda, a nifty trick to indoctrinate naïve students.
This may come as a surprise, but partnership became a cliche on this campus because it’s true and fundamental to the operation of the college. It’s not just “the people” that leave an impression on visitors and prospective students. There are many wonderful individuals on this campus, but there are on every campus.
What sets Hillsdale apart is who we are together.
Many friends have protested the invitation to partner with the administration, arguing that their vulnerability is a trap to trick us into confessing our wrongdoings for the sake of punishment. On the contrary, the college’s deans don’t seek to punish us, nor do they enjoy it. In fact, punishment (in an ideal world) isn’t even part of their job description. Punishment, like the college’s list of seventeen rules, is only necessary when things go wrong.
The liberal-arts education is our path to self-government. We are not self-governing when we arrive here, nor will we be when we leave, but we will be much closer than when we began.
Natural law, written on the heart of every man, gives individuals the freedom to discern between right and wrong. This ability, when matured under careful formation, frees us.
Unfortunately, the path to self-government is winding and we are clumsy learners. We are prone to wander and quickly lose the path when confronted by emotions, challenged beliefs, and exhaustion. We stumble over conflicting priorities and desires. Sometimes, we forget how to discern, and we pursue things that are dangerous to us or to others.
In these times, it’s the duty of our faculty, administration, and peers to reorient us. If we desire greatness, we must take care of one another. Stepping in to interrupt your friend’s spiraling scenario on a Friday night is not intrusive. Confiding in the deans is a gift, and so is their wisdom and experience.
Take care of yourself, and each other. Have fun. Be safe.
You see, partnership is not Jonestown Kool-Aid. It’s not propaganda, and it’s most certainly not a trap. Partnership is rejoicing in your friend’s success, and it is encouraging a friend in need to seek counseling. Partnership is texting Dean Philipp photos of your engagement. Partnership is Dean Peterson sitting at your grandmother’s bedside with your family the night before her death. It is pouring out your heart to your advisor after a moral wake-up. It is holding your sorority sisters accountable to their goals. Partnership is walking alongside one another, no more in our victories than in our failures.
As Dr. Arnn frequently reminds us, college means partnership. These anecdotes from my years at Hillsdale are not the average college experience. Hillsdale is quite possibly the only school in the world that so emphasizes the importance of preserving college. And it shows.
There’s a reason we each ended up here. Let us not take the gift for granted. Dig in. Take advantage of these relationships and this community. Firmly rooted in this rich soil, how greatly we can flourish. College means partnership, and Hillsdale does partnership well.
Reagan Cool is a senior studying theology and a columnist on faith and religion.