“Friendly, but often socially shallow or stunted. It’s an extremely uniform community (economically, politically, socially). Many students find this comforting and enjoyable but people with different perspectives, interests, or backgrounds often feel out of place or isolated. Insular, not a “safe place” for people with questions, depression, etc.”
That was a description that someone wrote of Bethel on ratemyprofessor.com. Granted, not everything on that website can be trusted, but this review kind of jumped out at me. Part of me wants to agree with it, part of me wants to fight it. But another part of me says, why can’t I do both? While I do see the signs of what this person is talking about, I see it from a different perspective.
Are most people that go to Bethel middle to upper class, come from a Christian home, conservative Republicans? Well….yes. So the part about people with different backgrounds and perspectives feeling out of place…I get that. But here’s the thing. Challenging someone’s beliefs or perspectives is definitely not a bad thing. I think it is crucial for a school to have people with different backgrounds and ideas about things, and I think that Bethel is not lacking in that aspect.
I think there’s a bigger issue at play here. It seems that everyone at Bethel assumes the role of a “typical Bethel student” which comes with certain stereotypes and ideas about what they think the majority believes. This tends to create an environment where people are afraid to speak up if they have a different perspective on something for fear of being judged by the majority, and this leads to an overall feeling around the campus that one could consider “socially shallow or stunted” because people are afraid to offer their alternative opinions.
Notice how I said “tends to”. That doesn’t mean that this issue can’t be fixed or at the least improved upon, because all it takes is for one person. Seriously. I know how cliché that sounds, but it’s freaking true. All it takes is for one person to speak up with their questions, to speak up and share about their struggles with anxiety and depression, because that then opens the door for others to speak up about whatever they’re struggling with. No one is alone in their battle. But that doesn’t mean the enemy won’t try his best to make us feel like we’re alone. Because if we’re alone in our struggles, then no one can understand us. It’s hopeless, we’re outcasts. Everyone else is happy except for me.
That’s bullshit. Literally everyone is struggling with something, and sometimes you have to be the one to start the hard conversations with people that lead to some of the best discussions and connections that you’ve ever had. Once I started opening up about my struggles, it became so clear to me that none of us are alone. If people feel like Bethel is not a “safe place” for people with questions or depression – well then, let’s make it a safe place.