Tapuwa et. al. enjoying a Senate team building experience.

When I came to this school, I felt like I was taking part in a unique experience at a university with a powerful sense of community. The Smooth Transitions move crew welcomed me with open, albeit tired (6am), arms. As classes started, the other students were so friendly and helpful and the professors showed passion for what they taught as well as for the students in their class. It was also incredibly easy to get involved all around the university which allotted me the opportunity for many great discussions and learning experiences with my fellow Musketeers. From the dorm to the classroom, I happily embraced all that Xavier had to offer. But lately, Xavier feels different.

Whatever happened to the Xavier I was telling you all about? Just two, three years ago, it seemed the entire Xavier community was one. Now Xavier feels like a place separated by its clubs, offices, majors, and a bevy of other ways to class an individual. As an RA, I hear it all the time from first years, “I need to find my niche… so that I can fit in”. Students are more worried about fitting in than enjoying their college experience. Before, you did not have to “find” your niche. Students were more focused on building relationships and engaging inside and outside the classroom, instead of focusing on padding their resume for that P&G job and staying in their little circle of friends. A perfect illustration of the impact this has had on the student experience in particular comes when looking at the caf. The old caf made it so you virtually had to get to know the person sitting next to you; whereas today there are so many walls in the Hoff Dining Center it seems to section us off, just like the cliques that section off our community. This feeds right in to the theme of racial justice.

To aim for a post-racial society means to create an environment that looks beyond classifying and thus segregating ourselves from others because of their difference, particularly in terms of race and ethnicity. Rather than just saying this person is Black or White or Latino, you acknowledge another individual as a person, a fellow human being, and accept that person for all he or she is. The whole point of racial justice is authentic inclusion of all people. It is not some brochure where a few students are put together and says this is what diversity looks like, but is a feeling that cannot be described as anything other than…well…I don’t really know, I guess it is like when an entertainer has that ‘it factor’ those music shows always talk about. It is a transcendent feeling of unity. I proudly accept and embrace my multiracial heritage. Furthermore, I grew up in a place where I was openly accepted and could embrace others as they embraced me. That is why I try to bring that same genuine personality to everyone I come in contact with here at Xavier.

The Xavier experience goes beyond the monthly career fair or Manresa orientation. It focuses on you, the student, and how you can learn to look past self gain in an effort to better the community as a whole. At least that is the Xavier that I remember. I get sick and tired of hearing people say “Xavier University…men and women for others” because lately it just feels like ‘Xavier University…men and women’.

I know people that see me probably think this guy is super involved and has no time to demonstrate any of what he is saying. But that is just it. I have not gotten involved, I have gotten engaged (not the married type). I entrench myself in different parts of the university to model the type of authenticity and inclusion I spoke of earlier. I attempt to positively impact students and their experience through my engagements. It is my hope that by doing this, others will in turn exude the same qualities and we can start to see a shift back to the ‘glory days’ of Xavier.

The entire Xavier community needs to come together during this time and address the issues surrounding racial justice. If we can create an atmosphere of inclusion for all rather than just the spiritual or social majority, we can realize the unity that results from a post racial environment. Retention, academic success, and personal happiness will increase exponentially if we employ this approach of inclusion.

So Xavier would rather hide behind your Organic Chemistry textbook or an OSI desk, or engage in the higher sense of learning and being that Xavier can offer? And forget about just saying a few fancy words that make your argument sound good. I want you to show how people can genuinely embrace otherness. I urge you to join me Xavier. Join me in recreating the wonderful experience we tell the rest of the world exists here in Muskieland. Join me and we can again become true men and women for others…not ourselves.

TapTapuwa Chikwinya is a proud west coaster making a four year sojourn in the Midwest.  He is junior, an RA, and an enthusiastic Student Senator (we could list more involvement but just don’t have the time) who wants to be an optometrist when he grows up. Tap is always–always (!)–smiling.