Door holding: something that all tour guides have mentioned as the quintessential description of Muhlenberg’s campus – more than Victor’s Lament or our cardinal red doors.
But the simple act of holding a door is just a part of our campus culture that we hold in such high esteem. We do things here that would seem foreign just about anywhere else, like leaving expensive electronics and student IDs as collateral on dining hall tables. Not too long ago, we were unofficially known as the Caring College, and in the years since, although the slogan has become just a distant memory, the aforementioned actions have come to exemplify the pride we have for our open, friendly and generally safe campus.
And yet, two weeks ago, were you even aware that criminal trespassing charges were brought up against an individual who, according to the Allentown Police Department, illegally entered Prosser Hall?
Even when something disruptive happens on campus, our campus climate returns to equilibrium within a day or two. An email notification from college administration – or in this case, the Office of Residential Services – arrives in our inbox. Vague details of what happened, a few tips on safety and a phone number to call give students more concerns than reassurances: then what? We gossip about it with our friends, share interpretations from apparent witnesses or friends of friends and the whole thing dissolves by the next day.
Or, in the case of reported racist actions against a student, the appropriate response is not to wait until the investigation of the incident is no longer ongoing; rather, all students should be provided with the opportunity to discuss the incident while it still remains at the forefront of our collective consciousness.
This strategy is hardly foreign to Muhlenberg. In November 2015, President Williams held a “Speak Out, Listen In” town hall-style meeting in response to anonymous racist comments made on Yik Yak, a now-defunct social media platform. As we reported two years ago, although pessimism and powerlessness dominated the meeting and subsequent conversations, it nevertheless represents the last significant, public discussion of race on our campus.
A small hole in our “Muhlenbubble” is not nearly enough to pop the question – what does Muhlenberg do to increase our awareness of social and racial implications in regards to our safety? An incident that should cause a true discussion on safety in our campus gets buried in the comfort we all eventually retract to.
We are privileged enough to feel comfortable, safe and secure on our campus, but there is a verifiable decline in those feelings as we get further from Haas and closer to the Hamilton District. Yes, it’s essential that students feel comfortable enough at Muhlenberg to call it their second home; however, some students undeniably revert to a feeling of discomfort and caution outside of the precious “Muhlenbubble” – do all students even feel truly safeguarded on campus to begin with?
Implications of racial bias are everpresent for students of color, regardless of whether they take a stroll downtown or to the dining hall for a bite to eat. The barriers of our racial and social division are not going to dissolve through our email inboxes – we, as a collective unit of students and members of the Allentown community, cannot progress without a more transparent platform of discussion stemming from our Muhlenberg administration.