Hear Us Out: Where We Live, How It Really Effects Us

web_Chris YoderI have been accused because of past opinion pieces that my voice is not representative of the EMU community because of my age.

I’m 23 years old. Perhaps this is true. Every opinion piece I write comes from my 23-year-old mind.

But the ideas are planted by the 18-22 year olds on campus.

I have never written an article that addresses specific issues on campus that doesn’t first bloom from the campus’ collective mind. I merely echo the opinions I hear that resonate with my own opinions in this public arena we call the Weather Vane.

That being said, hear my opinion. Hear the opinion of the students.

EMU allows students to apply for off-campus living accommodations if they meet one of four criteria.

One, if they live with parents or guardians.

Two, if they have earned 90 credit hours and are the age of 21 prior to Sept. 1.

Three, if they are 23 years of age by Sept. 1.

And four, if they require specialized care of any kind.

These guidelines are fair, but I would advocate for EMU to adopt a different stance, a stance that attempts to truly foster a developing college student’s independence.

When students embark on the post-high school journey, they begin a search for independence – they finally live away from their parents and are forced to make decisions of their own volition. They have new logistical matters to address.

They facilitate friendships on their own terms. They find their voice in the campus community, and they find that their voice carries power. They gain confidence.

There is a reason for this. It’s part of growing up.

But some schools like to play the role of a parent for far too long which, in turn, stifles the very tenets that a college should operate upon; it stifles the growth of confidence in the individual.

Speaking from personal experience, I developed more confidence than I could’ve ever dreamed possible during my SALT year teaching middle school in Zambia (I was 20 years old at the time).

Yes, I was working under an organization (MCC), but MCC stayed out of my hair unless I did something to publicly shame the name of MCC or if I needed help in a situation.

I was able to develop and adapt to a different culture at my own pace.

This freedom, or independence, speaks for the confidence I developed and brought with me to EMU. It speaks for the confidence I now possess in order to write an article like this.

In terms of the housing conditions at EMU, I understand why EMU requires students who don’t fit the above listed guidelines to live on campus.

It fosters a sense of community on campus.

But I have a simple question in regard to this statement: Does EMU fear that if students don’t live on campus this community won’t flourish?

If this is the case, I strongly suggest EMU to think otherwise.

The community in a place is merely the collection of a group of individual identities playing melodies that form beautiful harmonies.

It doesn’t matter where these identities come from.

In fact, Mennonites so strongly prescribe to the ideal of a healthy community that we include every single person in this world as part of our community. My brothers and sisters living in the village of Sikalongo, Zambia are just as much a part of my community as those here in Harrisonburg, VA.

That being the case, why should it matter where people hail from, where people live?

Allow students to decide for themselves whether the campus is the best place for them to grow in self-worth or if an off-campus option is the best place for them to do just that.

The community at EMU will not be harmed.

Above all, however, it is a shame to see people flaunt the system. It’s no secret.

Some students in their off-campus living application claim that they live with family members in the Harrisonburg area. This is not true. They live with five of their friends in a house on the other side of town.

So when a student makes a respectful attempt to change the system by means of operating within the system – keep in mind that the student is showing the institution respect by operating within its parameters – the institution should show respect in return to the individual.

Look at the appeal to live off-campus with an open eye, an eye that sees that community will not be lost by this one student living a block from campus.

Offer respect in return to the student who took the time and effort to respect the very system that their peers flaunt so easily.

They could easily do the same as those deceiving the system.

-Chris Yoder, Staff Writer


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