As you trickle back into your classrooms, dorm rooms and offices, you can feel the somber mood. There is tension as people wait for what comes next. The world has changed over the past year in ways few would have imagined.
I am writing this to tell you, it has not. This moment, today, tomorrow, next week, next semester, next year, the world will be the same as it always was, as it always will be. This world is the sum of our actions. Each one of us that takes in breathe must then use that breath to change the world for better or worse.
In this moment, your kind word or smile may be a lifeline. The words you choose may change a mind, change a heart, change a life.
I ask you to consider your impact this semester, especially those in leadership roles. You have not acknowledged the missing faces. So this semester, ask why that student or that group of students attend your events. Ask why they do not feel welcome, why they do not feel they can attend. Find and remove their perceived barriers.
To start: Do you state explicitly that family members are welcome when the event is outside normal hours? Do your events usually include alcoholic drinks, is that an issue for some? Are they held somewhere out of Oxford? Where some community members would have to ask for a ride and drive with people they have never spoken to before? Where they would not have the option of leaving on their own accord, should they become uncomfortable?
Let us start this semester and the rest of our future together being mindful. Perhaps something small. Maybe instead of just coffee, one container of hot chocolate or tea at all your events for the non coffee drinkers. Maybe a single hour set aside for your community to meet your department chair and one another. Maybe we can wor our way up to a University hour where no classes or meetings are scheduled, so we can be a community once a week.
Who knows, what we will find, who we will become?