As I think about my high school homeroom, I can recount the monthly announcements that my school’s principal made about students who did good deeds. These kids, labeled those who committed “random acts of kindness,” were recognized for returning a valuable item or helping someone in need.
While so simple a concept, incorporating these acts of kindness into the Lehigh community more frequently could really do a lot to strengthen it.
I would definitely consider the community here to be a strong one. This is evidenced by the reactions I get when I wear Lehigh attire at home or away from campus and see another student or alumni. In almost all cases, we wind up bonding over our shared connection to the school and have a nice conversation.
This also extends to the school’s especially strong alumni network. For almost any field, there is a strong support system from alumni who have been successful in that field and are willing to help out undergraduates.
Often, though, this friendly feel disappears when we arrive back on campus and interact with classmates. The workload is very challenging, students are overwhelmed by getting through their rigorous majors and there is pressure to secure internships. As a result, people are often stressed and only want to reach out to those in their circle of friends.
It is definitely fascinating how this strong community can turn antisocial very quickly, but there is a lot that can be done to reverse this trend.
Recently, I lost my credit card right by the Campus Square ATM, which was definitely an unnerving experience. Luckily, it was returned to me because a fellow Lehigh student was kind enough to contact me. Additionally, I found a school ID card near Lower Cents last year and was able to return it to its owner.
I have also seen several belongings left in classrooms, but other students always end up finding them. These students, in almost all cases, return the lost items to the professor so that they can end up in a secure place. This trend shows that this is a school of honorable people. I get that feeling way more here than I did at my high school, or even when visiting certain other colleges.
It is moments like these that make me realize that Lehigh is more than just an excellent place to get an education, but a strong community where there are kind people out there who look out for each other. However, more can be done.
This campus can use some more people who are good samaritans and everyday heroes. A good deed can really have a huge impact on the person who is its recipient, while giving a rewarding feeling to the person who performs the deed.
If enough people on campus are committed to this mentality, then a bigger goal should be pursued. Specifically, the school should look into how to implement some type of honor system.
Schools with honor systems generally are built on an environment that is very trusting. Some schools have it in the form of open lockers, while other places even go as far as to have unsupervised final exams. Schools known for having an official honor code include Haverford College, Davidson College and the College of William & Mary.
Lehigh has the strong community feel and numerous students attending who would look out for any of their fellow classmates. However, there are still steps it needs to take to get closer to being able to implement this.
The campus has some clear divides and groups, especially Greek versus non-Greek. If more can be done to unite different groups, then the campus can have a more trusting feel. Students should not feel isolated because they are different from others, but should instead feel comfortable with reaching out, since they are all from the same community. This is the kind of attitude that exists at schools with honor codes.
Furthermore, incoming President John Simon should consider how to change the climate to something more similar to the three schools listed above. Some very small improvements may be able to do the trick. It could be as simple as designing programs that effectively instill the values associated with helpfulness.
Lehigh is a school with some potential in this area. The majority of students here are honorable, but the next step just involves increasing trust, which is attainable.