Social media inadequate for senate’s #WeAreCalvin campaign

Photo courtesy Ryan Struyk.
Photo courtesy Ryan Struyk.

We all have seen the posters, buttons and t-shirts for #WeAreCalvin, a campaign designed to give the college feedback about what is important to us. The goal of the campaign is that students will submit a picture that represents what they love most about Calvin.

This can be anything — subjects currently range from pictures of squirrels in the snow to pictures of a LOFT service or a recent basketball game that we won. In the end, students will vote on the pictures they like best and, according to the video posted by student senate, “the number of likes a picture receives will show the committee how valuable it is to the student body.”

But I love Calvin College because of the diversity we promote. The Calvin College that I love prides itself in giving a voice to minority opinions and interests, the Calvin College I love triumphs a culture of discernment and seeing God’s common grace. So to decide what’s important to us as a college by championing the organization or event with the most votes on their picture makes absolutely no sense to me.  How do you visually represent a wide diversity in interests, opinions and backgrounds?

#WeAreCalvin emphasizes quantity over quality. I could take a picture of a massive, super entertaining program like Airband, which sells out consistently every year, and it would get a ton of votes. It’s a visually appealing picture, and it relates across the board to Calvin students. But I don’t really learn, grow or share in intentional community when I attend Airband. Sure, I love it, and I always have a great time, but Airband isn’t the reason I attended Calvin College.

In contrast, I do a lot of less visually-stimulating activities that don’t get a ton of participation, but they’re the ones that really shape my Calvin experience for the better. For example, I’ve taken a course in and attended several events sponsored by the gender studies department. The department is tiny, and it only offers a minor; in fact many of the courses are only offered every other year because it’s so small. But the discussions I’ve engaged in and the perspectives I’ve learned from have been completely transformative to the way I see the world and the way I understand other people.  How do I put that into a visually-appealing Instagram?

Another example would be the opportunity I have to work in the costume shop with the Calvin Theatre Company. I’ve been able to witness firsthand all of the awesome things that theater teaches people, and I’ve been able to gain and improve upon a skill that I was passionate about that I would never have had the opportunity to improve if I couldn’t work in the costume shop.

But most importantly, I’ve been blessed to share in an amazing community of my coworkers in the program, and I’ve had an opportunity to really connect with them  in a way that I wasn’t able to connect with others in other Calvin activities.  The costume shop, and by extension, the Theatre Company, is kind of like a family to me here. Please explain to me how I could sum that up in a picture that will rapidly generate massive amounts of likes.

I know that we’re struggling with the budget right now. I know that money needs to be cut somewhere and that requires prioritization on the part of the College.  But what makes Calvin different, what makes us special, what makes us Calvin College is our appreciation for and encouragement of diversity. Our acknowledgement that God rejoices in both art and nursing, and that both deserve equal attention and validation as something worth studying.

To create a hierarchy of “what’s important to us” would be to change who we are as a college. Martial arts club is just as important as Dance Guild, a theater major is as informative as an English education major and Visual Arts Guild allows students to discern and engage with culture just as much as a Fun. concert. We are Calvin College. We don’t all think the same way, and we don’t all come from the same perspective, but that’s what makes us, us.