The Gustavian Weekly

Cloudy with a chance of musing

By Kelly Dumais Staff Columnist | May 3, 2013 | Opinion

It looks like the administration has provided a cabin out in the arb to encourage people to head to the woods rather than lean in. <em>Kelly Dumais</em>

It looks like the administration has provided a cabin out in the arb to encourage people to head to the woods rather than lean in. Kelly Dumais

Leaning in

Kelly_DumaisChange the world—it might sound cheesy, but honestly it is something that most people want to do. Some people will work towards gay rights or feminism, towards the promotion of corporate freedom or smaller government; there are people fighting to end racism, to end poverty, and to promote education.

We all have a battle to fight, questions to answer, a wrong to right. It is sometimes overwhelming, as there are so many things that must be changed and the scale of the problems are often daunting.

But often the biggest obstacle we face is ourselves, our own excuses and justifications for why we are not present, why we do not act. But when we find ourselves in communities with problems, we cannot limit ourselves to the question “if it is our place to act” rather, we must ask ourselves “how can we act.”

One of the greatest misconceptions about the problems that we face is that they are permanent. Yes, many of them have been around for a very long time, but that does not mean that they are static.

Society is always changing, growing, and evolving; it is continually adjusting to pressures. For example, racism has been a part of the United States since its founding, but it has evolved, it has changed, and it exists now as it has never before.

I have often discussed with friends the tempting idea of giving up, throwing our hands into the air and declaring “good riddance,” of saying goodbye to society and heading to the woods.

The problem with this idea is that it actually does not do anything to fix the problem. Instead of bowing out of society, we need to lean into society, apply the pressure necessary to shift the movement and create the change that needs to happen.

To lean in does not necessarily mean that we have to work within the system, rather it demands that we be present. Leaning in means that our presence is felt, that we solid, and that we are applying pressure.

It does not take a movement to lean in, any single person can do it. It is true that the more people leaning in, pressing against the walls of oppression the faster the wall will fall, but never doubt the power of a single person, applying the right kind of pressure, to effectuate change in a very real way.

I once heard that someone who doubted the ability of a single person to effect change had never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room.

This year there has been a lot of buzz around campus surrounding the Ohle crisis. Between bringing documents about the Ohle administration into the open, a petition asking Ohle to leave his position as president which generated over 800 signatures from both students and alumni, to a front page story in the Star Tribune about the Ohle crisis at Gustavus, pressure on campus has definitely been building.

The thing with leaning in though is that it is continual. Part of the genius of is that it illustrated how the problems with Ohle’s administration are not new, they are diachronic, spanning through many years, through various administrators, professors, staff members, and student classes. It illustrates that the problems that we are facing are not new, and that there are many people together, all leaning in.

We need to recognize that leaning in is about adding our voices to the situation, applying pressure where pressure is needed, being intentional and conscious of what we are doing.

While we are entering the last month of this school year, if the history of the Ohle crisis says anything about its future it is that people will continue to lean in, pressure will continue to build, and change will happen.

People love this community and this college too much to not stand up for it when it is being threatened. Keep being present, keep reminding them that you are here and that you care, and change will happen.

For those of you who are dreaming of changing the world, of making a difference, I beg you to not wait until tomorrow—start today. Do not underestimate your own power to make a difference now, here, in our community, on our hill. There is always going to be a reason to put off taking a stand until tomorrow.

What you have to do is recognize that what you know is significant, your opinion is powerful, and you have the capacity to do something right now.

Embrace that, and the prospects for tomorrow will already be brighter.