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In a mar­keting video by the college, stu­dents partner with the campus deans. | Courtesy Hillsdale College Mar­keting Dept.

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.