When I toured Elon University my junior year of high school, I was mesmerized. Not only was the campus beautiful, but every student was passionate about something, whether that was art, traveling, service, politics or truly anything else imaginable.
Especially alluring was the passion with which students treated their community. The admissions videos showed diverse groups of respectful people treating each other kindly and working together to improve the community, and I so desperately wanted to be surrounded by others who share my compassion for others and desire to make a positive impact on the world.
Luckily, most of my expectations regarding the caliber of Elon students have been met. Nearly everyone cares deeply for at least one cause and engages in activities that foster the missions behind these passions.
As chair of Elon College Republicans, I am invigorated by our weekly discussions. I find great joy in facilitating discussions about issues that matter to me, and the light that my peers emit when they share their opinions is dazzling.
Politics can be a sensitive subject, so I have implemented rules regarding respect at College Republicans, and because of that I feel that all members feel valued and unafraid to voice their opinions.
Unfortunately, I worry that, outside the safe space that I foster, Republicans at Elon are being disrespected. I have endured heartbreaking experiences where my peers have described me as an intolerant, women-hating zombie because of what they perceive my views are. Occasionally these slurs are made vocally, but more often they are made by people hiding behind the mask of their social media profiles.
As one of the four pillars of Elon’s honor code, respect should be incredibly important to all of us, and something that we uphold with every action in our daily lives.
Because of the lack of respect I have been shown, I rarely delve into the specifics of my political beliefs, despite the fact that they are inoffensive and fairly moderate on the social spectrum.
I feel as though the few intolerant, disrespectful students who grace the brick walkways of Elon have silenced me and many others. While these people are few, their words are harmful and their impacts are profound.
Perhaps these unkind people do not realize their comments are spiteful, or perhaps they do not think that their mean tweets will be noticed, but the fact of the matter is that these comments are heard and seen, and they are hurtful.
Respect is something that we should all come to college equipped with and includes the understanding that nothing displayed online is private. Unintentional bullying is still bullying.
Elon claims to cultivate an environment that develops students’ sense of respect, and while we do occasionally receive emails about being decent humans who do not shout racial slurs at others I, at least, have never encountered anything that encourages me to be respectful in my everyday pursuits.
The Elon Honor Code is something that we encounter every day by signing our names under it on each exam and staring at it hung proudly on the walls of each classroom, but it is not something that is ever discussed.
We are told that honor, integrity, responsibility and respect are attributes that we must all possess to be Elon students, but we fail to receive guidance about how best to go about honing these characteristics. Consequently, some students lack the foundations of these four pillars and are thus unable to build upon them.
My greatest hope for Elon’s future is that students learn to exhibit political tolerance in addition to general respect for those who may have differing opinions and values.
I feel ashamed that I have allowed the disrespect of others to mute my public defense of my beliefs, and I do not wish for others to share this chagrin.
Respect is paramount to our success as people, and I believe that it is crucial that Elon opens a dialogue regarding respect and the rest of the Honor Code, both to help its students become better people and to prevent opinionated students from feeling marginalized.
Colby Marvin is chair of Elon College Republicans.