By Alon Nudler
A Short Opinion Column on the Community at UCR
One of the main reasons I was excited to go to UCR was the fact that it is a small college. At slightly over 600 students, it allows for small classes and personal feedback from your professors, which is mostly true from what I have seen so far. What I lack most here is a sense of shared community.
I’ll acknowledge from the get go that I come from a high school that had a very tight student community. Of the 400 students, 250 lived together. Combined with a very progressive and international education, both very privileged things I have had the fortune of receiving, you get what I would call a tight student community. For me such a community is one in which people are united. Be it through pride in community, a shared sense of support and safety or even through casual shared experiences. Sadly, it is hard for me to say that I see this unity here. I believe the community lacks pride and is divided into groups.
If someone stood up and shouted “RASA!” what would you do? Most would look away or roll their eyes and look at them judgingly, but why? Most would argue that it’s just “stupid” or that they dislike the cry, and choose not to take part in it. The very same can be said for piano man. Yes, from a logical perspective, these are two very counterintuitive ways to express oneself, but most social chants are after all. No, the point of such chants is to convey a shared pride and a sense of unity to others outside of the community, and affirm the belonging of the individual to the group. Think about sports for good examples of this, or about the phrases commonly used by fandoms. Ultimately you only look silly if no one joins in, but the point of being a community, and of having these distinguished chants, is that we back each other up.
Another reason I think spirit in this university is so low is that there are no real times where everyone, despite of semester, major or social life, come together. Sure some big parties you may say, but then again there are those of us who don’t enjoy such events and are only isolated further. Imagine that once a month time was made for a gathering of sorts, led by RASA, for people to celebrate, recognize and share what has been happening in the community. The last time my semester gathered was for Introweek, and that’s a crazy thought considering how much we have already experienced in these 6 months alone. This is a huge shortcoming, preventing us from chances to understand where others are, learning from them and sharing our pride, which we will definitely share again when graduation arrives.
That the houses of UCR are disconnected, some internally and others collectively, is news to no one. UCR housing offers the students the type of living arrangements that fit them most, which is great. I myself am very comfortable in Bagijnhof, enjoying the benefits of communal living and accepting that many people enjoy having a space they can completely call their own. While I don’t think it’s right to make anyone live uncomfortably, I believe that the disconnect created internally could be solved if people saw their neighbors and floormates and even housemates as less of a nuisance but as allies for lack of a better word. To form this relationship internally requires people to open their personal spaces (figuratively or literally) to others and the best way to do this is to set up communal initiatives. Many floors and houses do this wonderfully, yet still I hear the phrase “I’ve never met my neighbor” way too often.
Another phrase I often hear, and one that I am often at fault of using myself, is the generalization of campus locations. These stigmas stem from the same place as all stigmas: a small representative sample that is made the case for a larger group. The only real thing that can solve this is the same solution as other stigmas; exposure, communication and the building of bridges.
At the end of the day this is an opinion I hold, and even if many people agree with it, relationships are not built overnight. If you do agree, put yourself out there and try to bring people together, talk to those who live near you and the next time you find yourself at Elliott at 2am, smile and sing us a song, you’re UCR after all.
Alon Nudler, Class of 2020, is pursuing a B.Sc. in Chemistry and is originally from Israel.