Senior Harrison Horst urges EMU to ‘leap forward in faith’

By Harrison Horst | December 20th, 2017

Harrison Horst, who provided student leadership to the revitalization of the jazz band last year, takes a break during rehearsals.

After indulging in Centennial sentimentality, this student calls for action and change.

The Centennial celebration was an incredible success, drawing in unprecedented numbers of families and alumni to participate in over 80 events during a three-day period. Much of the celebration was dedicated to remembering and exploring what makes us a unique university, resulting in a flood of feel-good sentiments.

I too indulged in the sentimentality of the weekend, but for me, this “looking back” also sharpened what I perceive as a need for us to look forward. This is the question we have all been thinking about but not talking about: How will EMU stay relevant in the 21st century?

Despite significant amounts of financial aid, our tuition is still too high. Despite a branding attuned to our differences, we recruit students no differently than any other university. Despite a robust recycling program, we create far too much waste. Despite a voiced dedication to sustainability, less than 10 percent of our energy is renewable.

Despite our use of the word “radical,” none of this appears to be changing anytime soon.

Our inability to extract ourselves both from an incredibly unjust higher education system and from an extractive, resource-intensive consumer culture should be taken as a sign of institutional decadence, and not lightly at that.

I earnestly believe the people making decisions have our best interests in mind, but I cannot help but think that we can be more creative when it comes to generating solutions. It’s a tough gig, but we must be up to the task, for the cost of failure is high.

For example, we can more effectively leverage our comparative advantage in cross-cultural studies. What would it look like to have a cross-cultural minor in which students could specialize in developing the global perspective we value so highly? Or what would it look like to have cross-culturals themed to particular global issues, like rapidly increasing urbanization or destabilization due to climate change? These trips could engage our students in new, exciting, and highly relevant ways.

To push ideas like this forward, next year’s Homecoming could be a “think-tank” weekend. Imagine if all of the people here for the Centennial were thinking not about the past, but about the future. I can see it now: 2,000 passionate parents, students, and alumni working together in 80 events over three days to brainstorm creative ideas about how to move forward as a university.

Our university is familiar with voices arguing that our actions don’t match historical values. But instead of asking whether our path forward aligns with the way we have done things in the past, I am calling for a dramatic reorientation that engages the world in a way that is more true to our values and calling.

This is not about taking a step backward. It’s about leaping forward in faith: in faith of a greater plan, in faith that we are called to a radical rather than complacent worldview, and in faith that the next 50 years – the lifetime of my generation – are going to look different than anything we have seen before.

Will we be the brave visionaries for a new model of higher education that truly reflects our desire to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?” Or will we be the passive stewards of education who were not imaginative enough to remain distinctive?

Let’s be brave, EMU. Now is the time.