UA should help students find purpose

Chisolm Allenlundy

In his column last week titled “Nietzsche’s Dead, so we should live,” Rich Robinson excellently summed up perhaps the foremost dilemma facing The University of Alabama: left adrift amid great existential change, we do not quite know who we are or where we 
are going.

To depart from Robinson’s central thesis a bit, I believe we are beginning to discover the consequences – in addition to the benefits we already knew – of planning for our future with a premium commitment to tradition, which, given the University’s past, does not help us deal with the great racial tension that still permeates our campus. Following from this, the administration does not invest in the social change-making capabilities of its students. On the contrary, it often tends to ignore such capabilities – witness the numerous students against sweatshops protests over the past year – or even appropriate them as a PR stunt. Remember The Last Stand in the Schoolhouse Door? This dynamic has produced a bubbling tension between reform-minded students and the administration. That tension only serves to further muddy the waters of our future direction.

Rather than mass-producing this vague concept of “excellence,” the University should focus its incredible resources on solving the most intractable problems the world faces. Specifically, we should begin in the arena where we have the most experience, even if it’s not all positive: racial equality.

In the University’s newly-adopted role as a laboratory for social change, it should begin investing in its students’ capacity for understanding, internalizing and addressing social problems.

In the context of racial equality, the University should require break-out sessions at Bama Bound to introduce new students to the reality of race and its role in contemporary society. It would proceed to encourage or even require students to take classes in our department of gender and race studies, as well as fund lectures and discussions on such matters by leaders in the field. It might then mandate a senior project in which all students must discuss this problem – ideally it could be any social problem – and how they could use their unique skills and abilities to address it.

In doing all this, students will leave this university equipped with not only the intellectual resources to succeed in their future endeavors, but also the moral and sociological awareness to act as change makers on a world stage.

All of this is clearly a significant departure from the ways of the past. However, those ways have produced a culture, among both administration and students, that stymies progress, vilifies speaking out against wrongdoing and fails to properly instill in its members a comprehension of their role in society. If we are to reverse this trend and find the direction that Robinson called on us to find, we must make this necessary shift. If not, we will continue to flounder in an increasingly global society that refuses to wait on us to find 
our purpose.

Chisolm Allenlundy is a junior majoring in philosophy and economics. His column runs weekly.