Thoughts from '09 alum Kris Miranda
I’m currently a graduate student at the University of New Mexico (UNM), nominally a “Research 1” institution, which sounds nice, right? And to be fair, I’m mostly having a good time here, and we do have some high-performing programs, perhaps foremost among them an anthropology department competitive with counterparts at Ivies. But the bottom line about UNM is that it’s struggling to haul its ass out of the mud of a 40-something percent six-year graduation rate. Yeah. We’re also hemorrhaging teaching assistantships, which is pretty crappy if you’re trying to attract bright researchers in a time when subsidized Stafford loans are on their way out. Oh, and over the summer we learned that a former UNM president ran a prostitution ring that may have employed students. So you can understand that I spend a lot of time taking refuge in Colby pride. Small northeastern liberal arts colleges for the proverbial win.
Imagine my dismay, then, as I read through the November 16 issue of the Echo, in turns bewildered and just plain pissed off. Not at the paper, for which my affection runs deep. Sarah Lyon’s front page article in particular I thought was quite strong. Not at the football team in general, either; I had my share of friends on it. It should be obvious why I was bewildered and pissed. Clearly, certain Colby boys are a very long way from being worthy of being called men.
But I finally got to Laura Maloney’s opinion piece, and that went a long way toward making me feel better. I spent a year and a half being active with Students Against Sexual Assault, and it’s nice to see that some ideas we kicked around in possibly vague terms are seeing realization in concrete resources, with the help of your Student Government Association.
Which brings me to other reasons I keep finding at UNM to mutter to myself about how I wish I was still a Colby kid.
Colby is very fortunate to have a student government that isn’t paralyzed by petty in-fighting, and that’s willing to take aggressive stances on matters of ethics and social justice. I don’t think I ever knew Ms. Maloney while I was a student, but I had the opportunity to see and hear Justin Rouse speak at a few SGA meetings during my senior year and was always struck by his earnestness and eloquence. I know PhD candidates in the grad student government here at UNM who have less (or at least less obvious) empathy, insight, integrity and yes, courage than your SGA leaders.
Colby is also very fortunate to have a president whose academic and professional training is essentially in critical thinking, and who doesn’t spend most of his time hiding behind a tight-lipped administrative staff or gratingly cheerful weekly e-mails that almost completely ignore the loudest, most concern-filled conversations on campus. Dr. Adams and company have had a human share of missteps over the years, sure, but they’ve also always been engaged with students, and Bro has always led the way in being earnest, respectful and thoughtful in that engagement. Perhaps this is made easier than it otherwise might be by the small size of Colby’s student body, but in that case I’ll just chalk up another point for the small liberal arts college as a model for undergraduate education superior to big state schools like UNM, at least when such schools receive minimal support from the state government.
Which isn’t to say that Colby never finds itself in embarrassing situations. And here’s the childishly simple, yet so often overlooked key to something like the Hill’s most recent scandal: where human beings are concerned there’s no such thing, yet, as perfect. Which means there’s always something that could be improved, even if that something isn’t immediately obvious to everyone. Which means that anyone sneering and scoffing at activists and bleeding hearts ought to shut up and listen for once in their entitled lives: you just might learn something, and that’s why you’re where you are, right?
You’re all lucky beyond words to attend a school like Colby, almost literally a city shining on a hill, full of some of the best and brightest minds in this world, in one of the safest and most beautiful states in the Union. Don’t ever forget it.
But also, don’t ever forget that even the great can be made even better, and that the most critical voices on campus may well be the ones who love Colby most, because they’re the ones who see how much greater it could be.
Anyway, that’s more than enough from me. Happy almost-winter, Colby.