Have you ever thought about the power of your feet? I don’t mean as in you have a really strong big toe but that your feet take you to an incredible amount of destinations on a regular basis. Think about it—if you are hungry your feet take you to food, if you want to work out your feet take you to the gym or simply for a walk around the block, if you want a new dress your feet will whisk you to nearest sale rack.
You show people everyday who you are by how you move your feet. If I go to a certain place people are going to assume things about me. If I take my feet to Burger King you might think that I enjoy the food. If I take my feet to the salon you might think that I care about my hair and if I go to church you just might think that I’m religious.
Many of us, though I certainly recognize not all of us, have been given the free will to move our feet wherever we would like for them to go. Because of this I have a hard time understanding people who take their feet to places and/or events in which they don’t believe in, find offensive, or that make them uncomfortable.
The invisible string of social pressure leads college students to move their feet in places that, along with the rest of their body, do not have a desire to attend. This could be the embarrasing dance competition or the dodgeball tournament that brings back horrid middle school memories, but in many cases I find that it is the derogatory theme party or an alcohol soaked social event that on any normal day, in any other time of their life, their feet would make a swift turn away and walk back to the safety of concord. Instead they move steadily forward with the herd afraid to have a diffferent cadence than the others. Left Right Left Right Left Right…
In my role these students often say things like, “Why are groups allowed to have events like this?” or “I was completely overwhelmed but there is nothing else to do on Friday/Saturday night.” “I mean, if I don’t go how am I going to hang out with all of my friends?” and ”I have to go or I’ll never be able to become a member of that group.”
All of these comments boggle my mind.
My responses include the following:
1. Hmm…if this event is so awful, why do you continue to go? No one ALLOWS these groups to have these horrid events—I can assure you these shin digs are not following any of the policies we have set forth for our students or the values that we hope our groups uphold. If you don’t want them to have these events then stop supporting them by attending. Attending means that you not only accept what is going on at the event but that you LIKE it. Since this is not true I would suggest you not go.
2. What do you mean there is NOTHING to do on campus on Friday/Saturday night. True, those events are heavily attended but not all of the students on this campus were at that party. They had to be somewhere. I mean with all the overprogramming occurring on this campus and the amount of complaining that goes on about this issue you are telling me that we neglected to program on multiple nights of the week. Sounds totally logical to me (note my sarcasm). And, uh, have you ever thought about leaving campus—I know, that’s crazy talk, but there is a whole new world out there waiting just for you. Jasmine and Aladdin would be happy to accompany you on this adventure :).
3. Maybe you need to make some new friends. It is totally healthy to have multiple friend groups and certainly healthy not to hang out with the same people ALL the time. Do your friends know how you feel about these events and how they make you feel? If they do, but continue to pressure you into attending then you might need to examine those relationships.
4. So, wait. You hate the events thrown by this group and think they are rotten human beings but you want to become a member? Hmm…that makes the most sense EVER! Come on, really? Sigh. Is that really who you are? From what you are telling me I don’t think that’s the case. How is it going to be any better once you become a member? Let’s do some internal reflection and figure out what you truly want out of this joining experience.
Yes, we need to do some work on college campuses to cease the existence of many of the events in question but in order to change the culture we are going to need some buy-in from those that not only host the events but also those that attend.
A person’s presence or lack thereof sends a powerful message about who they are and who they wish to become as a result of the higher education experience. I know that it can be hard for students to take a stand on this matter; stepping up to verbally confront these events could be overwhelming and above their current developmental level. As their advisor, next time when you find that they are struggling to find their voice do them a favor and encourage them to find their feet instead. This discovery could, literally and figuratively, take them a long way.