As a child, I was taught that the best way to confront conflict was through dialogue and discussion. So, let’s talk about it.
As one of Georgetown’s crowning achievements in student ingenuity and enterprise, it is surprising that the institution instigates such divided and bitter reactions.
Or maybe it isn’t? In fact, the divided opinion appears to run along the same fault line that divides social groups on campus in general.
From upperclassmen, I have heard various accounts as to why that is, ranging from slightly wary to morbidly contempt:
1. “It’s too selective.”
2. “I don’t think the Corp is for me.”
3. “I don’t know, it changes people.”
4. “It’s too exclusive.”
5. “The Corp is a cult.”
6. “What do I look like?? I could never work there.”
7. “How many black people do YOU see working there?”
8. “Trust me, don’t apply for the Corp.”
9. “It’s not for people like Us.”
. . . “For people like Us.” The perpetual euphemism used by the non-white, non-elite, or non- Vineyard Vines enthusiast student population, thrown around since my first week here at Georgetown, and clarifying where I belong and to whom I belong on this campus.
Yet, who was I to object? On the onset, I found no qualms with the verdict.
As a week-old freshman, I gladly drank in every seasoned opinion from any source of information, from any student and felt happier for it. The majority presented the Corp as an elitist cult lacking in diversity but bathing in pretense—naturally I desired no part in that –and I innocently wrote that off my list of options. Worse, I carried on contentedly with an ill-founded but persistent disdain for the Corp, comforted by the fact that others held these perceptions as their own as well.
Recently, The Hoya published an article about how some members of the Black Student Alliance at Georgetown chose to boycott the Corp. The boycott was a reaction to both the Corp’s rejection of a BSA grant request, and a Corp employee’s attitude towards the BSA Board regarding the request.
I first heard the news through gossip, and my initial reaction was no more than a shrug and a fleeting thought “Well, it is the Corp, so I am not surprised that they wouldn’t want to support Us.”
Us. The non-white, non-elite, or non-Vineyard Vines enthusiast student population.
The article may have included subtle glitches—for example, creating a poster boy out of the senior Gavin Laughlin without his permission. While speaking with him on the matter, he related that it was a display of “bad journalism” to frame him as the poster child victim of the BSA in a snapshot invoking a message with which he did not necessarily agree. His view is not only understandable, but also an issue to consider since we live in a time where images can have just as much, if not more of, an impact on our information processing.
Nevertheless, the content of the article presented an overall proficiently unbiased account of the two sides. Without devolving into a full-fledged “victim and villain” archetypal structure, the article illustrated—in a way so slight it almost seems unintentional—a far larger disconnect between the Corp and minority groups. There is a disconnect between the Corp’s priorities, vision, and audience and the priorities, vision, and audience of the minority groups–though both are Georgetown student organizations. Moreover, this rift widens with every incoming class, as they inherit all the stigma from preceding years. It is more than this one-time occurrence of botched communication; it is a vicious circle.
In reality, as Ashley Miller states in her article, it is really only a handful of students “boycotting” the Corp, and I do not mean to belittle the action, but an institution of such pervasive magnitude will scarcely feel the sting of ten less patrons. A chief reason why this article even generated such a buzz is due to the historical friction it carries with it, not for the actual occurrence alone.
To those in BSA, and for minority groups in general, the Corp’s refusal to acknowledge the Visions of Excellence Ball as an event related to students serving other students, doesn’t feel like just a disagreement over technicalities. No, it feels like yet another shirk to the minority groups on campus, declaring those students as less important and less impactful on this campus. Yet another sticker on our backs, signifying US and THEM.
At the heart of it, many struggles whittle down to that feeling of being other, and it just so happens that at Georgetown—no matter how much we chant cura personalis or men and women for others—the “Us vs. Them” continual drama manifests itself much more repeatedly and acutely than it should.
With the Corp’s infamous employee demographic (no need to go into that . . . we all know), it exists as a blatantly easy target for which to throw darts at whenever “We” feel judged, slighted, or misunderstood in our efforts to just be a part of the larger Georgetown community.
But, “We” are partly to blame for perpetuating the pernicious cycle and feeding each new class with prejudices against an establishment that has an enormously positive impact on the Georgetown community. Maybe if we mentally repeal the wall we erected, then reconnection can occur. Of course, I am not preaching to you that this is all a one sided offense, because the Corp could work on its dialogue with groups outside its comfort zone, as the article fairly stated.
However, simple redirections can be made and presumptions to be retired. The next time you think “the Corp is not for me. I am not like them,” don’t. At this point, we are all guilty of misrepresentation and misinterpretation. Take Gavin, for example, who, in one shot, has been boxed into representing all that is the Corp when his actual person embodies none of the negative stereotypes accompanying his employer. As a friend of Gavin, I just felt shamefully insipid at how trivial my assumptions were before, especially when I realized that it made me a contributor in the same divide that I detest. When you feel that way, it no longer matters that you are a non-white, non-elite, non- Vineyard Vines enthusiast. The “Us vs. Them” is a real phenomenon, but it’s only as crippling as you allow it to be. As I allow it to be.
So, let’s talk about it.
-Jada Bullen, Slant Writer