As a new class of St. John’s freshmen arrives on campus and another academic year begins, a word I’ve thought a lot about this week is “change.”
Say it out loud ten or twelve times and it begins to sound foreign and meaningless. Try to come up with a solid definition and it is more challenging than you may think.
But if asked to contemplate the idea of change itself, most of us could likely give examples that illustrate what change means to us, whether it’s in a social context, from a philosophical perspective, or in many other countless circumstances.
Over the past three years and during my time as a Torch editor, I’ve seen a significant amount of calls for change around St. John’s. I’ve heard endless complaints from friends and students in just about every major. I’ve talked to teachers and administrators who have shared their own ideas about changes they’d like to see brought to the University. I’ve even spoken with janitorial staff and public safety officers about the way they’re treated and compensated. What I’ve learned is that even the most contented member of the St. John’s community has his or her own ideas for change that would make St. John’s a better place.
President Obama adopted the idea of change as a central selling point to his ’08 campaign. His election is testament to the power that the idea of change has: it inspires renewal, evolution, and growth—things that if we were without, life would seem stagnant.
Though, if there’s one thing that can be learned from President Obama’s first year and a half in office, it’s that change is not as easy to come by as the mere uplifting thought of it. I’ll never forget watching Obama’s historical inauguration and seeing a reporter ask one woman what she liked most about the new president. She simply stated, “I like when he talks about change.”
The very idea of sweeping change was enough to earn this woman’s vote, regardless of how steep the challenge would be to actually bring about that momentous change. The movement consumed her.
In talking to many people from different levels of the St. John’s community it has become obvious to me that this University is, like many American voters in 2008, starving for change. And while many people seem to have all the answers, it’s the few individuals that actually pursue their ideas who become relevant.
There is something to be said for motivation and inspiration, but change is impossible without the dedication and sincerity to act. Words must be met with actions, or nothing productive will ever take place and change will never come. From what I’ve seen, change has slowly been happening all over St. John’s and it’s due to those people who follow complaint with action.
Take the new men’s basketball coach Steve Lavin, for example, who within four months of coming to St. John’s has already dramatically changed the prospects of our team and brought in many promising recruits.
Take the construction of the D’Angelo Center last year which offers students a dramatically improved environment from the old UC building. St. John’s and Sullivan Halls were also renovated this summer in order to improve the student experience. A change was needed and certain administrators came through, but the catalyst behind these events was students making their minds known to the administration.
As a freshmen in 2007, dining on campus was a nightmare for resident students. I like to think that the Torch’s many editorials on the sorry state of dining hours and availability had something to do with the eventually extended hours, newly opened late-night diner, and a more careful attention to the food being served. Dining on campus is still far from perfect, but real change occurred when action was taken.
Senior Erin Chalmers has caused a wave of environmental efforts at St. John’s, working with the Earth Club and sustainability offices to make the school a greener place. She has single handedly been the catalyst behind the student garden behind Donovan Hall which provides food to a local soup kitchen; she’s the reason for the “green dorm” movement and heightened green awareness on campus.
In all four cases—whether the issue at hand is large or small, practical or lofty—the need for change was met with action.
Like campus dining, St. John’s is still far from perfect. In fact, this University has a list of problems too long to pen; but no institution is faultless and the changes that I have seen in my time here are encouraging.
Because of Coach Lavin, I’ve spoken with people who plan on attending all home basketball games this year; some of these people have never before been to Carnesseca Arena. From early in the morning until late at night I see students filling the couches and tables of the D’Angelo Center, something that was almost unheard of in the old moldy UC building that stayed toasty warm in the summer and frosty cold in the winter.
These are substantial and immediate examples of change at St. John’s.
It’s encouraging to see this place grow, but it’s important to remember that every change depends on an action. If everyone embraced that idea, little would be left to change.