As you transition, consider your priorities

The summer has finally come to an end today, as thousands of students and faculty are yet again returning for another school year. Although the official end of summer is actually several weeks away, it is difficult to deny that the resumption of class effectively marks the end of one’s ability to wake up in the early afternoon and spend the entire day at the beach. This new school year, though, will become all too familiar after a few short weeks, after which time the summer will seem as distant as all the others that have passed. To delay this inevitable sentiment, perhaps it would be prudent to appreciate this time of transition.

Although certainly each new school year begins in a unique way, with new topics being discussed on campus and new attitudes from a constantly changing student body, this particular year is quite distinct, mostly because of the anticipated one year anniversary of Sept. 11. In addition to resuming their focus on their classes, students must now contend with the nation’s debates about the progress of the war on terror, whether or not to attack Iraq and how to rebuild ground zero. This will affect individuals differently, as some were more directly affected by the attacks than others, and some remain indifferent to any of the topics. The most appropriate advice, perhaps, is not to get too distracted by any one priority, and habituate the practice of setting distractions aside from the moment’s concerns.

There are also the seemingly perpetual issues that students will have to deal with as they return. After any student has been at the University for a few years, one realizes that construction is a constant presence on campus, and this year is no exception. Both on and off campus, there is some construction project that is temporarily displacing some subset of the student body, and yet another whose completion is eagerly anticipated, such as the renovated Coffman Union, which is scheduled to be completed by the spring. Aside from construction, new businesses will open, and familiar ones will close, reshaping the atmosphere of the area’s neighborhoods.

Some students, though, will be arriving this year without returning to the familiar routine, as they are freshmen who have actually chosen to participate in this annual ritual. Although more seasoned students are often unwilling to provide guidance, whether elicited or not, it is important for them to remember that they were once in a similar situation and probably benefited from some advice. Even if these veteran students aren’t willing to offer assistance, it is important to remember that these freshmen do deserve patience and politeness, at the very least. They are, after all, undergoing one of life’s major, fundamental transitions, and they would certainly appreciate the kindness.

Staff and faculty are also affected by the arrival of the new academic year. Faculty members have their own routine to become reacquainted with, as academic demands increase and fresh faces appear at their doors during office hours. Although most faculty are familiar with their respective subjects, there is the opportunity to learn from these new students, who contribute in different ways. The University’s staff also will notice the transition, as they too have prepared for the sudden repopulation of campus for the past few months, and actually enjoy the festive atmosphere.

The year has abruptly started for the University athletics community, which suffered the unfortunate and sad loss of one of its members, Brandon Hall. A redshirt freshman defensive tackle, Hall was fatally shot early Sunday morning shortly after playing his first University game. While various University teams have been very successful over the past few years, the death of any player eclipses the attention that a successful season brings. The fans of the football team and its players will mourn Hall’s death in different ways, but it will surely affect both throughout the long season ahead.

The beginning of each new school year is the most evident sign of progress for those pursuing degrees and the rest of the University community. And each of these school years begins with new priorities added to the already exhaustive list of existing ones. Perhaps this year the University community can collectively strive for a few that are just within reach. Maybe this year we can make more evident progress toward increasing graduation rates. Maybe we can find novel ways for the University to integrate itself further into the municipal and regional communities it serves. Perhaps we can contend for a few athletic championships, or improve some teams’ chances at doing so next season. And just as important, maybe some of us can remember the sentiments of the season just past, and revisit them until summer arrives again.