We're now ten days (and a Collegian issue) removed from Hillsdale College student Robert Ramsey's infamous article in the college paper, in which (for the few of you who don't know about it) he both praised Broad Street Downtown Market for its ability to unify the student body and the townspeople of Hillsdale... and vilified Here's To You Pub & Grub for having "become [a] bastion of the lower elements of society." The piece created a bit of an uproar in the community, especially among those who frequent both establishments, and even moreso after Broad Street's praise of the article on their Facebook page.
And that uproar is wholly justified. Ramsey proved himself to be an ignorant college kid who believes there to be "a socio-economic chasm in the town of Hillsdale between those who are associated with the college and those who are not." He looks down upon those who he (wrongly) believes to have less than himself, and by putting his opinion in the public spotlight, he brought this public outrage upon himself. Nothing wrong with that, and I join most of you in your emotionally-charged backlash.
Let's not forget a couple of things here. First of all, Ramsey is a college kid. I don't care whether or not he's past the age of majority and is technically an adult, and if you do, you're wrong. In addition to that, I don't care what anyone says; no one, regardless of age, occupation or social status, is beyond having a chip on their shoulder and making a serious, public, social mistake (if not more than one).
Secondly, the only difference between this situation and any other is that this is a very small town in which, I would argue (and for various reasons I could point out), more people than would be the norm in other college towns read and pay attention to the college newspaper. That is the only difference here. If you don't believe that this attitude exists at other colleges in similar ratios of snobbery-to-humility, you're fooling yourself. This isn't a problem unique to Hillsdale College, nor is it anything being taught by the college. It's simply youthful immaturity; nothing more and nothing less.
Fact is, just about anyone who has moved from one area of the country to another has, at least once, come into a new town with an attitude of being above it. "I lived in City X, so I have more life experience than you little City Y people." I've fallen victim to it myself -- in high school, having moved from Miami to Greensboro -- and I had even promised myself that I wouldn't go into it with that attitude. It's all too easy to let happen. Unfortunately, it's one of those mistakes in life that you can only avoid by making once and learning from it. I don't care who you are, where you came from or where you're going: at some point in time, you have either already made this mistake or you will make it. It's simply human nature. The only difference is in how we each deal with it.
That having been said, it's up to us as a community to help people out of the mentality when they fall prey to it. That doesn't mean helping them avoid the consequences. They're going to have to deal with the consequences, and Ramsey is no exception. He brought a world of hurt upon himself in this town, and he's not going to be able to avoid it. But what we can and should do is teach him otherwise. Show him that we're not the backwards hicks he takes us for. Take him out to the Tip-Up Festival and show him what a coyote hunt really is. Introduce him around at the Pub & Grub to some of the well-off patrons who probably make more in a month than he's ever made as an employee in his brief adult life. Prove him wrong, but do so compassionately (even if it is with a little sense of condescension toward the little snot) so that he will learn that we're the kind of people he should be socializing with.
See, the biggest problem I have with this whole controversy is that everyone is pissed off about it, but no one seems willing to do anything about it. A few people have brought up the idea of an "Adopt-a-Townie" (or, if you prefer, "Adopt-a-Charger") program in which the College would pair students up with locals who could show them around and integrate them into the community. I, personally, find this to be a fantastic idea... in fact, I wish there had been something like it when I was in school. But the overwhelming reaction to such an idea has been "why should it be our responsibility?! It's not my problem, it's theirs! They're adults! They should know everything there is to know about media decorum already!"
Never mind the fact that they don't know everything there is to know about media decorum, which is why they're in the journalism program at Hillsdale College. They're there to learn media decorum. If they already knew what to do in situations like this, they wouldn't be there.
As for the College's part in all of this, there has been no official response from them, but such an official response shouldn't be necessary. Let me repeat that: an official response from Hillsdale College to the Robert Ramsey article and the controversy that arose from it should not be necessary. Why? Because despite the fact that the Hillsdale Collegian is an administration owned-and-operated entity, they have done what they can over the years to give the paper editorial autonomy, which the paper in turn has exercised quite often in its history. Sometimes even to the chagrin of the administration. But that is their choice, and I believe it's a wise one.
That being said, it would behoove the College to step in behind the scenes and use this as a teaching moment for the Collegian staff and journalism students. But we cannot accuse them of not doing exactly that, because we don't know whether they are or not. And, frankly, it's not our business to know.
What is our business is how we react, and right now, we're not reacting very well. We have people in this community taking sides between Broad Street and Pub & Grub. We have students on The Hill trying to put down the "socio-economic chasm" sentiment on campus, but at the very same time, we have townies stirring up unfounded anti-College sentiment against both the administration and the students. We have allowed Ramsey's article to highlight an idea worse than what it expressed: that the college students just want to get along, but the city hates them. And while it's not at all true that the majority of people in this city hate the college and/or its students, that's the perception that's being put on display every time someone says "the college is teaching them this behavior" or "Hillsdale students are just a bunch of rich snobs to begin with." Neither of those things are true, either. Deep down, the people saying them know that, but they're letting their outrage get the best of them.
The bottom line is this: it IS our responsibility, as citizens of Hillsdale and Hillsdale County, to help these students learn just who we are and what we do. It IS our responsibility to help teach them that, even if some of us do make less money than they're accustomed to living on, we're no less intelligent, capable or refined than they are. It IS our responsibility to help them integrate into this community, because if they can't integrate here, they're only going to get their asses kicked by the real world when they leave; and believe you me, that's going to be a much harder lesson to learn than anything we'd teach them here. It IS our responsibility, as townies, to show compassion to college students even when they screw up and piss us all off.
Because if we don't, we're only proving Robert Ramsey correct.