Is exclusion a function of population?

Letter to the Editor

Is exclusion a function of population?

There is a magic at the flagship campus of the U of M. Every fall, scores of academics flock to this gargantuan University and revitalize the dreariness that is suffused in the past spring,­ jolting the university to life again. The campus in its entirety ­­is breathtakingly beautiful, with ivy covered red brick buildings, steep gabled slate roofs and views of the placid Mississippi river that indelibly bisects the university. As a transfer student, I could hardly contain my excitement as I navigated my way to my first college class, through a myriad of problems that had consumed me the past few weeks.

What had occurred was ­after my arrival at this awe-inspiring campus; I, an introvert and alien, was consumed by a strange assortment of cold feet, apprehension, anxiety and perturbation. The intimidating milieu had really taken its toll on me. Butterflies pounded my stomach as I summoned up the tenacity to blend in with a cadre of my peers amidst the pre-­commencement college activities. However, my fears were mostly unfounded. People were warm and welcoming, and communities to join were abundant. The specter of being left­ out was supplanted by the impalpable joy of acceptance. Self-­confidence proliferated as outdoor­ activities burgeoned. It dawned on me then to think of those who have troubles adjusting to the daunting campus life.

In such a diversified student body, how many of us really endure protracted desolation, depression, or even direct or indirect ostracism? Is exclusion a function of population, or is it merely an anomaly? The answer is more nuanced than intuitive. Firstly, many students have never experienced the overwhelming nature of the novelty that they are exposed to. This sudden mobility may bring elation but it also imbues them with a newfangled sense of responsibility, and failing to live up to it may lead to believing that one is good-­for-­nothing. In a study published by Noli Brazil from the University of California Davis and Matthew Anderson from Baylor University, it was discovered that the choice of college can profoundly affect one’s mental health, citing as many as 1,400 cases in a single college. “When you think of it, a college transition is made of three parts: where you’re coming from, where you end up, and the difference between those things,” said co­-author Matthew Anderson in a statement. It is only natural that anyone who finds himself to be a misfit may also feel excluded or ostracized. Many students fail to even acknowledge their plight and continue living in denial.

However, denial of the problem itself exacerbates it. For many of us who have grown up in an atmosphere mostly conducive to happiness, it becomes more difficult to confront the unprecedented frenzy of emotions we experience in a new place. Resources surely exist to minister the problems of the individual, but how many of us are likely to even turn up for consultations? Solutions that are mostly suggested are expanding the friend circle, changing one’s environment, studying in a group, etc. One can only gauge the efficacy of such methods personally, but an important thing to consider beside acknowledging the problem is to nip it in the bud and to take action at the earliest before it mushrooms into something that perennially drags one down.

It is hard and unfair to pinpoint to a particular source that aggravates concerns. Many universities today face this existentialist problem, and their outlook toward it can go a long way in alleviating personal ordeals of the individual. Incentives can be created to urge the students to step out of their shells. The sharp shifts of college life can be offset by increased recreational activities, and students can definitely learn to embrace this new life. But, it still remains absolutely imperative that a prospective student does careful analysis of the type of college he or she is going to attend before enrollment.