You Belong Here

Senior Peter Ercolani argues that wider recognition of mental health and social issues across campus could help foster empathy among students, which could make the University a more positive place. 


One of my favorite discoveries upon moving to the state of Kansas was that Midwesterners are well known for their hospitality and welcoming attitude. I felt this almost immediately when I moved in at the University of Kansas my freshman year, as my roommates were some of the nicest people I have ever met. They were so wonderful that we still live together now during my senior year.

But it feels like this is not the case anymore.

It might just be that the University has lost its inviting and exciting impact on me during my last year, but it feels like the hospitality and sense of gratitude that I was once welcomed with is no longer prevalent on this campus. It feels as if this infectious positivity has instead been replaced with judgement and entitlement.

I was first inspired to write about this issue when I exited the 43 red bus onto Daisy Hill the other day. As I filed in with the mass of freshmen exiting onto Daisy Hill, I yelled a big thank you to the bus driver and was answered with a chorus of scoffs and dirty looks from my peers exiting the bus. When we were outside of the bus, several of them chuckled and made comments under their breath.

So I let it go. Just kids being kids, right? I didn’t feel weird or wrong for being friendly and appreciative to the bus driver, but it did put me in a weird head space. After I got off the bus, I entered The Studio in Hashinger Hall and went into the coffee shop just to find a group of girls, also presumably freshmen, talking down to the girl behind the counter. The girl behind the counter seemed to be doing her best to answer all of their questions and fulfill their order.

They all proceeded to chat to each other about how her job wasn’t that hard and how they could never work there or in food service at all. This set me off, as someone who also works for KU Dining and advocates that everyone should have to work in food or retail before they settle into their career, but again, I let it go.

Don’t misunderstand me. This issue isn’t one that only applies to freshmen or even just to students. These are all examples of ways that I have seen students showing their entitlement, or rather, their belief that they are entitled to other peoples’ time, services and manners despite their own negative attitudes.

This morning, I read a tweet from one of my peers that commented on the fact that they would be 10 times more willing to go to class if their teachers and fellow peers made them feel appreciated and welcomed. She is a junior, and she makes a great point.

We are all part of one Jayhawk family. We are all here for the same reasons, and the behaviors that I see on this campus every day make it hard for me to believe that I was drawn here by the welcoming and compassionate student population. College is hard, but the only way we are all going to make it through it and do so successfully is if we humble ourselves and start fully appreciating and respecting each other. Let’s reanimate our sense of camaraderie at the University of Kansas and remind each other that we all belong here.

Jerika Miller is a senior from Aurora, Colorado, studying English and secondary education.