I’m extremely glad that we were able to have a discussion about respect that included students, faculty, and staff, though I think that the conversation needs to go beyond the superficial (picking up gum wrappers and napkins, not using cell phones, and learning names) to a deeper level of understanding.
For me, the most important aspects of respect on campus have been inclusivity and a willingness to get to know others without prior judgment. Because there are so many different people from diverse backgrounds on campus, it can be easy to judge people based on how they dress, who their friends are, or what rumors we hear. When we judge people like this, we shut the door on a potential acquaintance or friend.
During my underclassman years, I was frequently guilty of this kind of judgment and disrespect. I was intimidated by kids who were older than I and even kids in my own class who seemed to already know each other before they arrived at school. I decided that I would simply choose other friends and not bother getting to know any of these students. I disrespected these people when I did this.
When I became an upperclassman I realized that many of these people went through the same types of struggles that I did. I respected them much more, and in return I felt much more respected by them.
This same kind of understanding needs to happen between students and staff. I hear students complain that they feel judged by staff members who think that Deerfield students are arrogant, and I hear staff members complain that students don’t say hello to them or pick up after themselves.
As I progress through my time at Deerfield, I also find I have more and more respect not for only what the staff does, but also for how welcome they have made me feel at school. Perhaps the solution to this disconnection and perceived disrespect on both ends is simply the formation of deeper relationships between students and staff.
I’ll never forget Bernie Motyka’s congratulations to me on my acceptance to Deerfield, the countless hugs I have received from Susie Driver and Norm Therien after athletic practices and games, or my homesick conversations with Sandy Magdalenski, the woman who cleaned my dorm during both of my underclassman years. These people reached out to me in a way that made me feel included and respected.
I don’t mean to imply that we need to be best friends with everyone we meet on campus. I do believe that we owe it to everyone in the community to have an open mind in terms of respect and the recent respect forum. We need to try our best not to judge others in order to be respectful.