There’s a lot I could say about myself to try and give a picture of what my life is like here at Oxy. I could talk about what I’m involved in-- everything I do with Planned Parenthood, the Queer Student Alliance, Wellness Committee, Glee Club, jazz vocal lessons, and the many different jobs I’ve had on campus. I have many stories of tears, both happy and sad, even from just two semesters of being here. But I feel like there’s this thing about Oxy, that makes us truly Oxy, truly unique, that I can never put into words. That is, I couldn’t put it into words, until I realized what it is during my Sociology 101 lecture last week.
Sociology is really just a fascinating class no matter who you are. On the first day of class, the professor drew five circles on the board and asked a male student to pick which one he would go to if the circles were urinals. The student picked the one furthest away from the entrance, and my professor said that in all his years of teaching sociology, this test had never failed—the student always picks the "urinal" furthest away. Sociology asks the question, why is this? There’s a lot of decoding interactions of every day life, but the most interesting thing we’ve studied thus far is culture—how it’s created, and how it creates us.
To get into the lecture on culture, Professor Potts (one of our new and awesome sociology professors) asked us what was culturally specific to Oxy. At first, students talked about our tradition of throwing people into Gilman Fountain on their birthday, matriculation where you meet the President of the college, etc. Traditions that many colleges tend to have, but nothing that really got specific to Oxy. And then one student mentioned something she learned from her Orientation Team Leader called "first draft." The idea behind this is that when you’re talking about something sensitive, you can say "first draft", and then everyone you’re talking with knows that you’re still improving this idea, and you need support to help flesh it out, and not for anyone to criticize you for being wrong the first time around.
This was the first of many that began to pop up. Once she mentioned "first draft" people started mentioning how most students and faculty use the phrase "self-care" very seriously. And how when something goes wrong on campus, there’s always a student-run forum about it to help the community heal and push forward for solutions. And how professors here want you to succeed in learning overall, while professors at many other schools simply encourage students to pass.
Professor Potts asked us how these characterized our culture overall here on campus, which is when I realized that what makes Oxy so special, what makes it my home and safe space and learning place and the most wonderful place I’ve ever been, is that we have a culture of care.
Everything from the administration, to the professors, to the 100+ student organizations, to the dining hall, and the dorms is focused on care. Caring for each other, caring for yourself, caring about what’s going on around you, caring if someone is hurt, caring about the world and its problems, caring about making it better. It’s the thing that can’t be quantified and made into a pie chart. At the center of Oxy’s being is our culture of care, getting strong every day.