This New Year, break down barriers to communication



New Year’s resolutions: the source of both hope and disappointment. This January, the staff of The Occidental Weekly suggests that students and staff make their resolutions not about gym memberships and self-help courses, but to the changes we can make within the larger Occidental community. At the top of this list of New Year’s resolutions should be a commitment to improved communication.

We should begin by changing how we communicate with other students. Anonymous posts on Oxy Confessions or Yik Yak are not conducive to effective dialogue. Neither are self-affirming conversations held in the privacy of our own, secluded friendship groups. Real change — the ultimate goal of any resolution — requires discomfort.

Real change requires putting ourselves in unfamiliar situations, making ourselves vulnerable and remaining open to opposing opinions. Conversations on Oxy Confessions and Yik Yak are characterized by too much skittishness and too little accountability. If the community wants to engage in both new and productive dialogue, these epicenters of anonymity do no service. From the Green Bean to residence halls, the campus provides endless outlets for face-to-face conversation that should be utilized.

Second, we should turn our attention to the lack of communication within the administration. Anyone paying attention to current events at Occidental will have picked up on administrators’ tendency to respond with “that’s not my department” or “someone else is handling it.” For many of the occupants of the Arthur G. Coons administrative building, walking from one office to another seems too much to ask.

While communication may be poor between members of the administration, it is nothing compared to the gulf between the campus community and the board of trustees. Last semester, board of trustee Steven Hinchliffe ‘55 demanded a complete list of sexual assailants during an interaction with survivor advocates—this, after multiple years of protest from students and faculty over the issue. Obviously, official college policy was never communicated to this board member, and this needs to be remedied.

This winter break, let us all take an hour or two that would otherwise be filled with Netflix binge-wathcing and use it to reflect on the changes we wish to see at our school. Let us consider what we want to see of our leaders, but also where we can make improvements ourselves. If students are unhappy with their experience, it is up to them to change it.

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