Don’t ignore the elephants in the room

My last column in December called for the discovery of a UA student body identity. I refrained from mentioning what I think may or should be our identity because that would defeat the purpose of our entire campus rallying behind what we all agree to be our unifying bond.

If someone were to label me as another overly involved, academically ambitious and futilely optimistic independent with the grand idea of unity, they would be correct. But my activities and grades don’t make me more or less a UA student than anyone else, and unity does not consist of morphing all students into one ideal.

This university brings together a vast array of unique personalities, interests, goals and talents, but somewhere, woven deep in our student body DNA, there is a common bond that we all can be proud of.

Some may feel satisfied with the status quo and that is great. This cause will not tear down the current social foundations on campus; it just seeks to expand those foundations and build sturdy connections.

Some may feel cynical or apathetic about a unified campus for a variety of reasons. At the least, give the cause a chance and trust that it has everyone’s best interests at heart. It will not consist of shoving everyone into a room, locking the door and waiting for unity to magically appear.

Our university has reached a breaking point, stressing the need to build a sense of campus unity. Campus has grown tremendously over the last few years and will continue to do so. Though its infrastructure may have been prepared for this enlargement, student life was not and still isn’t.

There are real divisions on this campus that are being ignored because of their historical and national precedent. Segmentation will always occur naturally, but segments become divisions when they do not and cannot communicate, interact and appreciate each other. A subconscious turf war wages – this segment belongs here, this segment does that, both segments cross paths here.

Every university in the country probably deals with campus associations dominating the identity of its students. Every university probably deals with those associations segmenting and closing off campus. Every university probably deals with those segments warring against one another.

We, though, decide to ignore all of that. It is quite fitting that a school whose mascot is an elephant ignores the elephants in the room in an almost accepting manner. This university taboos important subjects: the prevalence of UA graduates in the administration, the segregation of the greek system, and the dominance of the top 20 percent of students over the 80 percent majority.

I love the University and I’m having a fantastic time, but I don’t pretend it is perfect. Nothing ever is and everything can improve.

Silence has never solved much of anything. The low personal payoff discourages speaking out on heated and controversial issues such as those mentioned. However, at some point, it should not be about what this university can provide you; it should be about what you can provide for this university and future students.

The goal is not to label specific groups as villains and decry their behavior, as that would benefit no one and deepen the divides. I must admit that I have fallen into that trap a number of times, and I apologize for it.

What we need in the future are honest discussions on what is wrong on campus and how those issues came to be in order to create understanding and comfort amongst students. Only then can we move forward.  Through this, we will discover the similarities and like mindedness of our student body.

Hope breeds motivation. Motivation leads to action. Action yields results. Results produce trust. Trust creates comfort. Frankly, our campus has yet to even grasp hope.

Wesley Vaughn is a junior majoring in public relations and political science. His column runs on Wednesdays.