There is a Community Outside of Campus
As college students that live in a rather isolated campus, it is quite easy for the average Hamilton student to become just as isolated. Most often, our lives will solely revolve around what happens up the hill. Although it was (hopefully) the norm for us outsiders to keep up with what was going on in our hometowns, that is not exactly what we do when we’re on campus. Typically, we become so absorbed in our classes, extracurriculars, and occasional partying that we fail to recognize that there is an entire community of people living down the hill. And by down the hill I do not mean Wertimer or Skenandoa. By down the hill I mean Clinton, New Hartford, Rome, and Utica. By down the hill I mean the communities made up of people who work, socialize, and live beyond the premises of College Hill.
This thought came to mind for me as a friend of mine told me about an incident that happened in Utica earlier this month as we were chatting in one of Keehn’s common areas. A man who was attempting to commit suicide—and called 911 for help—was murdered by the police as he was carrying a knife while approaching the police officers at the scene. Puzzlingly enough, the officers at the scene failed to utilize less lethal weapons on the man (as they weren’t provided with any), and failed to deescalate the situation. After becoming aware of the news, I surveyed quite a few people(likely around fifteen of them) on their awareness of the incident. Interestingly enough, very few of those had heard about it. Those who did, heard about it from other students who heard the news from other students, just like me. Remarkably enough, I got several: “Wait, What?!”s. The mind-blowing occurrence, however, was how long it took for the news to reach me. Though the incident occurred on September 12th, I only heard about it well over a week after. Normally, it would take a lot less time.
When I stop to think about it, if this were New Orleans (which is home for me), I would have likely stumbled across the news during my daily scroll through nola.com, or I would have heard about it by a family friend reposting said news on their Facebook page. However, around here—as an outsider—it does not seem as though lots of us have these routines. We typically do not have family friends who repost news articles such as these, nor do we tend to tune in to the local news (very few of us actually sit down to watch TV outside of our casual Netflix binge). Unfortunately, we seem to live in an entirely different world up here on College Hill, ignoring what is impacting our community right next door.
Even as I scroll through The Monitor and The Spectator, I happen to come across very few articles addressing local issues outside of campus. Of course, as these are Hamilton College periodicals, they are largely going to be focused on what goes on up the hill. However, these are newspapers largely consumed by Hamilton’s students, and for them to more often publish on issues down the hill is to (perhaps) bridge the gap between Hamilton students and the surrounding community. A few examples of Hamilton-periodical pieces discussing local events include Corey Bravo Sloan’s recent opinion piece on queer and transphobia in Clinton, and Eric Santomauro-Stenzel’s recent news piece regarding Utica’s Observer-Dispatch’s journalists’ fights for an improved labor contract. And although they do a great job at informing Hamilton students of issues going on outside of campus, these pieces have to become a norm. They cannot just be published whenever a topic is of interest to said writer, these pieces have to become routine. Editors of Hamilton periodicals have to make sure that pieces regarding local news are published as often as possible.
Drawing from the college’s educational goals, Hamilton students have a responsibility of being informed. With one of those goals including ethical, engaged, and informed citizenship—why don’t we as a community focus on what goes on just ten minutes away? How can we grab our diplomas one day, with the expectation to “make a positive difference in the world,” if we cannot even grab our phones to skim through a few articles from the Observer-Dispatch?
Of course, we typically are caught up with news of larger scale. Such news often are topics of discussion within classes that we take, and are news we often come across in the form of cheery Instagram infographics. But why wouldn’t one want to also become aware of topics of importance for the people next door?
With this being said, I would like for the average Hamilton student to take in the following:
Perhaps, try sending some of these news to your group chats. Try to shake up those floor GroupMes with something other than “Can someone get their clothes from Dryer #4?”
No matter your opinion on said topic, discuss it. Articulate whatever thoughts you have regarding the topic. Become that well informed individual. Be an active member of your community to the best of your ability.
As you become more aware of these issues, you can engage differently with the people around you. You can have a meaningful interaction with the barista over at Utica Coffee whenever you walk down the hill. You can bring these issues up in class, whenever possible (or relevant). Ultimately, you attain the goal of becoming an ethical, engaged, and informed citizen. As cheesy as it sounds, you may actually be able to become an individual to “make a positive difference in [your] world.”
Lastly, for those who cannot relate to the obliviousness of not being caught up, make sure to be the friend who brings up these incidents to your friends, making sure that they’re also aware. Even if you’re having a casual conversation about your orientation trips in a Dark Side common area.