Dean Kromm argues that direct conversation is essential to fostering a happy community.
What is the role of an active listener on campus?
I was walking down 114th on my way to JJ’s place when he stepped into my path.
His wild, gray beard and disheveled appearance led me to divert my gaze, and I rushed past him. It was only when he turned his attention to the students walking behind me that I removed my earbuds and looked back.
He was gesticulating wildly toward the street, at a yellow cab, and I realized that he was the driver. In the backseat sat two young women—they had opened the door and were peeking out, apparently distressed.
He pointed at the cab: “How do I get to the hospital? I need to get them to the hospital.”
Had I immediately stopped and listened, perhaps I could’ve helped sooner. But Columbians have always had a complicated relationship with listening, both on a personal and administrative level; this year, more than others, has seemed like a culmination of those complications. The Varsity Show was perhaps the most striking ode to this, aiming its satire at the various ways in which members of our community have talked past, and not to each other.
But after a semester of high-profile tragedies which rocked the student body and the world in general, it’s important to reaffirm that there are people to turn to, people who, regardless of their role on campus, will go out of their way to shoulder the multifarious burdens of their peers. Administrators, students, professors, RAs, even whole student groups—they all “listen” in distinct ways, and for distinct reasons. But ultimately, the support is out there: at a club meeting, or an administrator’s office, or even at a writing seminar.
Listening has its stigmas and difficulties; sometimes the ways in which we listen (or don’t), make speaking up a much more difficult affair. But Columbia isn’t necessarily the hellscape it’s made out to be. Reach out—you might be surprised at who will answer the call.
Editorial Page Editor
RA Rachel Chung explains how to listen without the intent of speaking.
Furman Counseling Center seems to rely more on formula than on listening.
The right listener will be a source of support and can even help create solutions.
Nightline suggests finding genuine empathy while recognizing the singularity of students’ experiences.
Barnard Writing Fellows engage in listening in order to help students add their voices to the discussion.
We can only be effective listeners if we uphold the boundary between sharing and burdening.