By: Grace Hatton, Editor-In-Chief
In about a week, I will walk across a stage to collect my diploma along with over 150 fellow graduating seniors. Graduation will take place, as always, in front of Sunderland. Just like that, my Wilson career will have come full circle as I graduate in front of the first-year dorm where my parents dropped me off on a muggy August afternoon four years ago.
Throughout these years, I’ve seen a lot of changes– some positive, some negative– take place at Wilson and with each small evolution the college has gone through, I’ve gained a greater sense of Wilson and its nature. This place has become home. So, before I move onto sunnier pastures, I want to use my last letter from the editor to comment on the good, the bad, and the uniquely Wilson things this place has shown me during my undergraduate career. In a way this is an attempt to give myself some “end of an era” closure, but, more than that, it’s my attempt to offer the community a sense of how tenacious, flawed, and ultimately marvelous this place– where we’ve all decided to invest our time and money–is.
Let’s begin with the good things. After four years, I’ve come to the conclusion that undoubtedly the best thing about Wilson is the Triad experience it offers. Yes, it’s challenging and all-consuming, but no other educational system will give you four years of practical work, meaningful service, and challenging academics upon graduation. Many of my friends who are graduating from state or other liberal arts colleges have no idea how to survive after college; many are without any work experience or real accomplishments outside of the classroom. While many Wilson graduating seniors may not have perfect jobs lined up or fantastic plans quite yet, we all have an advantage.
Unlike other graduates, we all have years of skills developed through our work crews under our belts, giving us actual experience that can be related to the real world and help us find jobs. We have all spent hours upon hours serving this community and giving our time and talents for the greater good, thus giving us not only more valuable experience for our careers, but also– and perhaps more importantly– the ability to know how to integrate ourselves into new communities and in turn make a positive difference. The final strand of the Triad, academics, has taught us how to think for ourselves and how to question while providing us with the knowledge we need for our chosen professions. Lastly,the Triad gives us the advantage of knowing how to juggle a hectic schedule and thrive in it. The Triad has shaped us into well-rounded, caring and holistic members of this community and that is why it remains, in my eyes, the most valuable and meaningful aspect of a Wilson education.
Another great thing Wilson has offered during my years here is the campus community’s willingness to discuss and find ways to improve itself after incidents on campus. When I say incidents, I’m referring to incidents such as the vandalism that happened on campus a couple of years ago and the recent carving of KKK into the tree outside of Glad last semester.
Which leads me into one of the negative aspects of Wilson that I’ve noticed: the cycle of students (who never seem to be apprehended) that feel the need to express hateful comments through vandalism and direct attacks on members of the administration (an example: the threatening letters sent to former Dean of Students, Deb Meyers, my sophomore year and the vandalizing of her car). I wish I could offer some magical fix that would stop this trend, but that, unfortunately, is beyond my capabilities. All I can say is that it is a perpetual battle Wilson seems to be fighting, and I hope that somehow the students that feel the need to lash out will find more productive and healthy ways to express their frustrations. But, to bring it back to the positives for a moment, every time this community has been struck with acts of hate or vandalism it immediately addresses the problem and opens up forums, conversations, and petitions to try and improve the situation.
From the recent “this is what community looks like” chants around the Gladfelter tree to the required class discussions and proposals for change (one of which was the community print outs that you can still see on the mail room cork board) that were initiated my sophomore year after the vandalism and threats against Deb Meyers, Wilson is constantly showing how we will not stand for hate or persecution of any group. We will always fight for justice and equality and that’s a pretty amazing character trait for a college to have.
Other negative experiences that this community has experienced during my time include our recent financial troubles. The cost of attending Wilson has jumped significantly since I began attending in 2010 and I can honestly say that if I were an incoming first-year now, I would not be able to afford Wilson. This saddens me because Wilson has been a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine having to say no to this place due to financial restraints. Again, I can offer no magical fix for our financial woes, but I do hope that somehow Wilson finds a way to fund this amazing place through other means than cutting staff and raising the cost of an already very expensive institution.
The last negative aspect I’d like to touch on is the recent string of thievery on campus, the most recent and perhaps most disappointing being the theft of the senior barbeque money. I wish I could say the barbeque money being stolen was the first time something like this has happened, but that’s far from the truth. There has been a constant trend of money boxes being stolen from various events and crews. Thankfully, faculty and staff rallied around the seniors and replaced the stolen barbeque money, but this rarely happens.
This trend of thievery, like the trend of vandalism, speaks to a greater character flaw within certain members of our community that there is no magical cure for. All I can say is that to anyone thinking about stealing, please consider how it affects your fellow students. Yes, it’s relatively easy to steal cash boxes on this campus but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it should be taken. Think about your community and how you would feel if something was taken from you. If you don’t care then you probably shouldn’t be a part of this community that attempts to earnestly care about one another.
Lastly, let’s take a moment to appreciate all the things that make this place truly unique. The other night, as I was walking with my roommate (who’s on Carpentry crew) in our fancy dresses to the senior dinner, she was complaining about an issue her crew had been having with pipes in the basement of St. Claire. My other companion, my creative writing teacher, smiled and said “I’m sorry I just have to say: only at Wilson would you be dressed like that and talking about problems with power tools.” And she was right.
There are many things, like faculty clowns performing at Circus to drum circles to Work Day to Circus itself to skinny dipping in the river to the general lack of days off to the abundance of tie-dye to having your professors really know you and your problems to free piles and everything in between, that make Wilson a completely one of a kind bubble that exudes awesomeness.
It’s a bubble that I’ve wanted to escape more than a few times, but now, as I’m forced to leave the bubble for good, I have to admit, I will miss it sorely.
That all being said, in these last few days, I issue you a challenge. For however long you have here, I challenge you to find the good, the bad, and the uniquely Wilson in this community for yourself. Appreciate the goodness, seek to improve the negative, and revel in the uniqueness. There is truly no other place like Wilson and, believe me, it takes four years to know it intimately. But when you do and you reach the end, like my fellow graduates and I, you’ll be able to walk across that stage with your head held high. Equipped with that knowledge that yes Wilson isn’t perfect, but ultimately this little college in the mountains is an oasis we’ve all been blessed to call home for what we would like to believe have been the best years of our lives (so far!).