We at Gustavus are champions of social justice. We are leaders in equality for women and people of different cultures. We pride ourselves on our acceptance of gay and transgendered people. We raise awareness for child soldiers in Africa, the continued discrimination against Native Americans, and the uphill battle of immigrants.
Yet there is a group among us, on our very campus, that we still discriminate against regularly. I’m talking about those Gusties with physical and mental disabilities. It is amazing to me that when a girl with a disability walks into the Caf, people say “Oh look! There’s that weird girl.” We joke about what she says in class or the way she walks.
This causes an incredible sense of loneliness among our peers. Here they are, just like all of us, struggling to adjust to college life, which is hard enough as it is, while simultaneously having to deal with alienation from their peers. It creates on our supposedly accepting campus a divide between “us” and “them.”
I am certainly not an expert on this subject, and I, too, am guilty of the same thoughts. However, this year, I was given a random roommate, who has a disability. Living with him has not been easy, but I consider him one of my good friends. I love him to death and wouldn’t trade him for any other roommate. More importantly, he has helped me to see firsthand the struggles that some Gusties face at GAC.
Here is a social justice issue on our own campus that needs to be addressed. We need to help our fellow Gusties who we have alienated by our own preconceived notions of what a “normal” person is. It is time that we stop treating our peers as inferior Gusties.