The trees bloom with green and the wind carries through Sturges Hall. I am sitting where the benches are in between the Gazebo and Sturges Hall. I put down my book as one of my friends enters the room. They were wearing a grey long-sleeve shirt and black pants. That outfit felt all too similar to the clothes of the past summer. Just as I go to speak, my friend stops me. They look at the horizon; it seemed like the edge of the horizon was gobbling up the sun.
“Kazon, I’m transferring.” They said plainly.
I look at them and then back at my book; this time at the book cover. I scan over the cover, the title of the book: Between the World and Me. I look up at my friend and I let out a sigh.
“I see, I wish you could have been the first to say that.” And the conversation went on from there.
The sun had fallen below the horizon and I wave my friend a good night as they walk off to Monroe Hall. I turn away and walk into the entrance into Sturges Hall. The closest entrance. To my left is an art installation. It was by my friend and it was about retention rates for SUNY Geneseo students. The retention rates for students of color, particularly black students.
The best part to SUNY Geneseo is that every year there is a new set of students who have come for a singular purpose. That singular purpose being: a bachelor degree. At the same time, we are seeking to find something meaningful at SUNY Geneseo. For some, SUNY Geneseo may have been a reach school and for others a safety school. For few, they cried when they got into college and for others, their families forced them to go to SUNY Geneseo. What matters is that on some level SUNY Geneseo connected to us and we align our values and ideologies to be part of this community.
As I stated in my previous blog posts, what keeps me at SUNY Geneseo are the connections I have created. In fact, one could refer to this act as a form of sustainability. Referring back to the group blog post, sustainability was more than environmental, it was also social and economical. Sustainability meant acknowledging the three pillars especially considering their presence in NGOs like UN. So, these acts of sustainability I try to incorporate into the connections I have created. Particularly social sustainability and my relationships with others often come into a direct intersection.
My personal connections and social sustainability come into direct conversation with each other. According to the Western Australia Council of Social Services (WACOSS), social sustainability is “The impact of formal and informal systems, structures, processes and relationships on the current and future livability and health of communities.” Social sustainability means being able to create relationships with others and for future generations without outside or inside forces disturbing that. Things that affect social sustainability could be who receives more or less equity, the level at which people of diverse backgrounds are received and accepted in a specific environment, and how interconnected a community is to others outside of their own community.
These values, amongst others, relate to my own connections because I am striving to sustain all of that within my relationships. In fact, the group blog post and previous blog post allowed me to talk about my connections and social sustainability but never how to keep these connections. Thus, how do I maintain the connections I have created when the institutions that exist are not always safe or comforting for me?
That is a question that lingers within a conversation on this collection of blog posts. It is and can be hard to keep hold of connections especially at SUNY Geneseo. SUNY Geneseo can be very toxic for students, faculty, and staff of particular identities. For example, Ted Everett, a philosophy professor at SUNY Geneseo, disregarded sexual assault victims within a speech titled, “Against ‘Sexual’ ‘Assault’ ‘Awareness’” in 2013. The comments were coming in response to Sexual Assault Awareness month and disregard how the victim should dress or act a certain way to avoid being assaulted instead addressing the assaulter and/or the dehumanization of sexual assault survivors.
It is frustrating because, for students, faculty, and staff who have created bonds with others within or around the philosophy department, how are they suppose to feel safe or comfortable around a department like that. Particularly for people who either know someone who is a sexual assault survivor or maybe one themselves, it can be very scary and unwelcoming for them. At that point, how are people to uphold social sustainability when the environment created is unsafe for the survivors and allies? It really brings up a strong question of how someone remains connected to a place that has people who are directly attacking issues like equity or the ability to feel safe? In fact, Steve Prince’s, “Urban Mixtape”, is making me really evaluate the connection between social sustainability and connection are one and the same.
Steve Prince’s “Urban Garden” is able to comment perfectly on the question of how to remain connected to a place that is both safe and unsafe. On one side of the piece is a “good” side and on the other side a “bad” side. Within this art piece, these two sides parallel another, creating both a space for and against sustainability. On the left side of the Kinetic Gallery, you have pieces from other students and Steve Prince representing a lack of sustainability. On the right side, you have pieces that show sustainability at its peak. All the while the Geneseo community, for even a little while, felt safe and comfortable. At the same time, the Kinetic Gallery was not accessible whether it was for timely reasons or inaccessibility reasons. What Steve Prince, whether he realizes or not: managed to not answer my question. Our “Urban Garden” piece was able to tell us how we all exist within spaces that oppose each other and work with each other.
I miss my friends. To the ones who graduated and especially to those who transferred. It feels very hard to sustain a conversation with them. They often are doing their own thing and I am doing mine. At the same time, I enjoy having a conversation with them even if it is difficult. My connections, like with Steve Prince are left in that feeling of “and/or”.
And even nearing the end to this collection of blog posts, I realize that Steve Prince’s artwork is integral to how I understand myself and others. Whether we are talking about my feelings of loneliness, limbo, or connections, Steve Prince’s work and furthermore this journey is a way to really take a look at how Geneseo shapes people and vice-versa on how I shape the people of SUNY Geneseo.