by Ellie Houghtaling
This past summer while travelling through Europe I found myself in the uncomfortable predicament of being badgered by strangers about the state of U.S. politics. It was almost as if my flat accent was a call to action for all their deep-seated issues with the American government. After my first week, it became apparent that I was a touring ambassador for New York. While explaining the nuance of the same issues over and over was frustrating, what became more apparent with each conversation was that the Europeans I talked to had no sense of how polarizing U.S. politics has become.
When I talked to Frenchmen, they could not relate to how divisive supporting universal healthcare could be in a community. When I spoke to people from Northern Ireland, they were shocked to hear how hostile Trump’s name is. While these examples may sound U.S.-centric, it was the nature of conversation that I discovered had been altered in the States. This revelation shook me, as it represented a fundamental flaw in how conversations occur in our country. It showed me that chaos has become so intrinsic to our politics that I forgot we used to hold ourselves to a different standard.
As I travelled, I missed the States less – but I began to miss Purchase more. As much heat as this school receives for its shortcomings, I’ve never felt such divisiveness or alienation from its community. We may be called a bubble, but this school really is a safe-haven for the thousands of students who come here from all across the country. This is especially relevant, as this year SUNY Purchase admitted more out-of-state students than ever before.
Although Purchase isn’t perfect, it’s a place that I think most attending students consider home. While modern political factions may rely on ‘other-ing’ communities, I find that Purchase’s strength lies in our school’s founding mission; “to create opportunities for transformative learning in a community where disciplines connect, intersect, and enhance one another.” I hear from graduates how much they miss the community of this school or the seemingly unlimited access to arts that this school provides.
This feeling of alliance extends itself to the upcoming year especially. Left and right I hear clubs and services excited to branch out into unchartered territory by coalescing their interests. PTV and Purchase Late Night are teaming up for more organized, diverse content and are looking to film events cross-campus. WPSR has an entirely new identity (new room, new staff) and are looking to collaborate with multiple entities including the Forum Art Space and the Free Store. The Stood has arranged to allow their staff technicians to be requested for a multitude of events. The PSGA execs, to their credit, presented at the seasonal financial retreat for clubs and orgs a sense of unity amongst the board in goal and teamwork, highlighting a new optimism for the face of student government. Now is not the time to isolate the arts or ourselves into different cupboards – in the face of a country falling apart by warring ideologies, our community can come together as an example.
As members of the Purchase community, the best legacy we can leave behind is this legacy of interdisciplinary collaboration, and an effort to continually improve upon the hard work of our predecessors. When the world seems to highlight our differences, remind yourselves that those very differences are what we can use to help one another.