I was fairly hurt when I received a letter explaining that while I was amongst the dozens of outstanding nominees, I was not selected to receive the Cords of Distinction award.
I have a hard time admitting to this hurt. To do so seems to be letting myself be defined by outside, arbitrary, made-up competitions. I do not like the idea that a single piece of paper would have the power to make me question whether my efforts on this campus have been good enough.
I have also tried to resist being sad and even a little bitter, because I do believe the ten recipients have certainly accomplished much during their time at EMU.
However, I am realizing that admitting to hurt is completely necessary in order to call into question this award process that has left so many students feeling alienated and dejected.
At the Oregon Extension, one of my professors often said the biggest lesson he has learned as an educator is “to never undermine the confidence of your students.”
The Cords of Distinction process does just that: it undermines student confidence in their accomplishments and their power to be change effectors. So many wonderful, giving seniors are left with the impression that their contributions were not significant, not noticed.
I do not have a good recommendation for how the process can be reformed. I think those who do good work should be told they are appreciated, but there has to be a way to do this without passing over others.
Could a professor or staff member be linked with a graduating senior and write a letter to him or her, stating the gifts and abilities that student brought to campus?
To those who did not receive Cords (or another senior award being distributed this time of year) and are still clinging to a mixture of resentment and insecurity, here is a reminder for us all: what can a committee really know about you? They can read about the deeds you have done on campus, but they certainly cannot know what intangibles you have been a part of these past four years.
You may have set extra challenges in your coursework, invested hundreds of hours getting to know good friends, built relationships within a church community, taken time each day to notice your surroundings, or found inner happiness and peace.
Awards are nice gestures and certainly are important for honoring those who do good work. Yet, recognizing that everyone is contributing, possibly in less recognizable ways, is also important.
So from me to you, thanks for all you do to contribute to a positive campus. I hope we can all begin to recognize each others’ achievements and our own.
Erika Babikow, Contributing Writer