Fall “break” is over. Midterms are still going along. And, yes, Senior Seminar is always there to remind me of what awaits come January. A senior year like any other. Still, my daily life at Wabash is not unlike any other student. We all are Wabash men at the end of the day. Most of us aged 18-22 came to Crawfordsville for one reason or another. Some reasons are pretty straightforward; others involve great triumphs from prior failures that we will one day hear during a future Chapel Talk. One way or another, this College manages to balance the glory and allure of old and what is now necessary for the sustainability of the education of Wabash men for generations to come. Not every current student will accept that. And that is all right.
However, as I see myself sitting in the basement of the Armory or The Bachelor office like any other Wednesday, I cannot seem to brush an uneasiness out of my mind. Is every student doing what they can to make Wabash a better place than it was the first day they set foot on campus? Before looking to the future, allow me to reveal the curtain and take a step back.
For those who have not had the privilege of visiting our office, it is exactly what you would think it is for a building that is a little over 100 years old. Although, from time to time, you can learn a thing or two. One of those moments happened to me this week. I strolled through some issues of The Bachelor from last year all the way back to the 80s. A few laughs, a few deep sighs, and once in a while, something genuinely enlightening pops up.
In an opinion from 1995, a Sophomore named Luttrell Levingston ‘98 had an opinion piece titled “What Makes Wabash Unique.” Believe me, freshman, you are not the first, nor will you be the last class to hear about what separates Wabash from other institutions of higher learning. Some are more obvious than others, but others make this little place what it still represents for thousands of Wabash men.
After reading his beautiful, impressive opinion, there is one thing that he touches on that cannot escape my mind. He said, “When we entered this place, we were still boys struggling to find our way in the world. The people we met here, more than anything else, defined what kind of men we have become.”
I ask every current underclassman to pull aside an upperclassman in their house or someone you have had the pleasure of befriending. Ask them: is this a Wabash you feel confident and fulfilled leaving behind? Some will reply with a roll of their eyes and “Sure.” Others would probably go on a rant and blame everything on the administration.
I say that we are getting there, yet not everyone pulls the same weight. The COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid changes in student life over the last four years, the divide between fraternity men and independents, and a host of mercurial moments will prove to have lasting consequences during my remaining time here and for years to come. Those of us who knew the days of Wabash pre-COVID, do you think those around you are making a collective effort to make this place better for its future students, faculty, and community members? This concern is not foreign for the dozens of Seniors I have had this conversation or type of conversation with since coming back to campus this Fall.
It is easy for the older guys to critique the younger guys. However, this is not directed at the students who look at you sideways when you bring up Boat Races during Homecoming Week. This is not directed at the upperclassmen who came into this place knowing what it would take to be part of something bigger than themselves but have not. Maybe not even for the people who come off as successful or “living their best Wabash life,” but in reality could not care for this place once they receive that diploma in May. It is all of us.
Since the pandemic, the divide on campus between fraternity and independents presents a reason for long-term concern. This is the time to put that aside and move towards a greater purpose. The presence of groups like MXI, shOUT, and La Alianza is no longer just a building or group where you know one or two people. These are growing into staples of our Wabash community. In a pandemic that highlighted the growing divide in racial, religious, and sexual orientation prejudice in our country, our duty as Wabash men is to not fall into the mistakes that older generations and some current leaders make today. As the Unity Walk showcased last week, we are a stronger campus when we realize that the differences between us pale in comparison to the shared experiences and realizations we are afforded at Wabash. The opportunities to accept the unknown and grow through those around us.
These are just a couple of examples of how certain individuals and groups are fulfilling the promise we owe to those who came before, and in ways, we are falling into mediocrity.There is no better time to realize that we are part of something bigger than ourselves than the present. By prioritizing trust and accountability, we then can become the best version of what a Wabash man means in society today.