The love you have for stfx as the driving force in your criticism of it
Over the past week, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my time being a student at StFX. For the past four years, I have had so many different feelings towards this school and my relationship to this campus, town, and student body. I remember struggling in first year, feeling as I did not understand the StFX “family” narrative, and thinking I was the only one who didn’t get it. I remember being at a crossroads after first semester of first year when I was beginning to enjoy my classes, but was still struggling to find my place in the StFX social web. I remember the first lecture that sparked my love for Women and Gender Studies and made me want to be smarter, more knowledgeable and better versed in academic conversation. I remember wanting to get more involved in second year but not knowing where to turn and instead spending my free time either dancing at Splitties, nursing my hangovers or scrambling to get my papers in on time. I remember finally finding my niche in third year as I became involved in student media through the Xaverian Weekly and Social Justice Radio. I remember times where I couldn't shut up about how much I loved my school, my community and my friends along with the times when I was becoming more informed about issues on campus which subsequently led to some anger at the administration, or the students and professors around me. I have used my involvement in student media to voice my concerns, opinions and suggestions for improvements which has been a very beneficial outlet for me and has allowed me to learn more about the complex dynamics of what makes up a university.
The news that came this week regarding sexual assault allegations sparked negative feelings for many, myself included. I have been wrestling with my internal dialogue: “How is this happening on our campus?” “Where is the compassion in the emails being sent to students?” “Why are we not mobilizing to sit down as a campus body and do something about this?” Of course, this brings about its own wealth of uncomfortable feelings; I do not like being angry or disappointed in my school. Walking home on Friday evening, after attempting to work on my three upcoming essays, I was exhausted, overwhelmed and upset. I began to think about X-ring and what being a graduate of StFX will look like after I have spent so much time being critical of this institution. When all is said, and done: what kind of alumni will I be?
When I was in my second year I worked for the Alumni Calling Centre. Here, I talked to alumni that were so excited to get their yearly phone call and would chat my ear off about their time on campus while asking me eagerly about what it was like now. I would talk to alumni who wanted to hear sports stats, to donate specifically to women’s engineering and alumni that were simply uninterested in hearing from us. I also talked to alumni that were keeping up with campus news and were concerned about how the school was handling issues. Each alumni had a different view and story to tell about StFX.
It is true that our alumni network is strong, I have seen it with my own eyes and have heard it with my own ears. Many of the alumni I had a chance to talk to continue to be very engaged with what was going on campus; it cannot be denied that being a Xaverian leaves a mark on most.
What I would like to point out is that being a StFX alumni does not have to be about idolizing the school and having only positive and fun memories from your time here. Being an alumnus can be about the inside jokes you had with your friends; it can be about the job you worked in Antigonish; it can be about a specific conversation you had with your favourite prof or a book you read in a class that changed your outlook on something. Being an alumnus can, of course, be about keeping connected to your memories about super subs, homecoming or BURMAC, but it can also be about the time you didn't like the campus you saw around you. It can be about the time your heart felt heavy for the victims of sexual assault but then how you mobilized to speak out against it; it can be about the hardships you've faced and how you have grown and learned tactics overcome them. It can be about learning to be a good friend or how to write a paper in under 24 hours.
I know that, especially in times like these, it may be hard to be proud and want to share your school spirit on your sleeve. I think having these feelings are valid and important. Being a part of an institution like a university won't be all fun and games. It is okay to not agree with decisions made by the school, your professors or other students. It’s okay to look back on your time at StFX and see more than just good times and no worries.
Being an alumnus and a university graduate allows us to reflect upon our experiences, both the good and the bad. Allow your X-ring, your diploma or your monthly alumni news to be a time to think about the things you have learned both in and out of the classroom. Allow these symbols of X to be a reminder of who you became from this experience, regardless of whether it was super positive or not. It is our experiences and how we grow from them that makes us who we are, not our ability to see the good in everything at all times.