‘Let’s keep the summer attitude’

By Ian Hagerty

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

New Englanders have and might always be known for their less than welcoming demeanor. We all know it. It’s that look –well rather lack of a look– that you get from a stranger when walking by them on the street. With the University of Massachusetts   situated in the center of New England, it is easy to imagine that this attitude, be it a cliché or not, is very prevalent on campus.

I could be wrong about the reasons for this generally unwelcoming attitude on campus, but in my personal experience, it does exist. I thought, maybe it’s just the cold weather or the pressure of school, but after attending a music festival, the Gathering of the Vibes, over the summer, I thought again.

Immediately upon entering Vibes this summer, it felt like an entirely different world. Strangers were introducing themselves to other strangers as far as the eye could see. People wore the clothes that they loved, not the ones their peers approved of. You couldn’t walk for more than a couple of minutes without meeting someone new or sharing something, anything, with a completely previously unknown human being. There was a feeling of community, deeply rooted amongst the festival goers that felt much like what you might experience  in a small town less touched by the outside world. You could tell another that they were beautiful as casually as discussing the weather. There was a general feeling of mutual trust.

Now I know this was a music festival and therefore it can’t be compared to life exactly. After all, people are almost exclusively at music festivals for pleasure, while school can cause any number of different emotional reactions from the people attending it. School stresses people out. It is fair to say that this makes school and music festivals very  different. However, I still think that we can learn something from the communal nature of a music festival.

People really need to let their guard down a little bit on campus. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be cautious, especially when walking around alone at night, but rather that people should be more welcoming to their fellow students. Have you ever sat in a lecture hall and found it awkward to even ask someone sitting directly next to you a question? Or have you ever needed to find a class or office around campus, only to have trouble making eye contact with those around you?

An easy way to picture this is to imagine how many people you see on campus every day with their headphones in as they walk around. There isn’t anything wrong with listening to some good music, especially if you need to relax or concentrate, but I honestly think that we foster a community of unfriendliness around UMass.

Of course, there are exceptions.

Certainly there are many friendly and welcoming people all around campus that make this school the wonderful place that it is. I just can’t help but think that it could be much better. Sometimes, when I walk around campus, it just reminds me of New York City. New York is a vibrant and wonderful place, filled with culture and educated people, striving for something better. I see this in both the city as well as UMass. At the same time, though, New Yorkers are hard pressed to make eye contact with a stranger walking by. This body language and the mentality associated with it are often created to serve as a safety bubble. You can understand this attitude in a place like the city. After all, crime has often run rampant in the history of New York. UMass, at least to me, seems less menacing.

The message I am trying to convey is just that we should all enter the new school year with open arms and an open mind. If you had any summer fun at a festival like I did, help spread that joy and sense of mutual love and respect to all of those around you. This is already our home and school– let’s treat everyone like family.

Ian Hagerty is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]