Attending college is supposed to encompass more than taking classes to improve a skill and socializing with others at parties. Universities aim to foster a community of students who will surpass the common achievements of undergrads and reach for what’s most important and most difficult: to make a lasting impact in the world and change lives.
USC tries to create space for significant explorations – emphasizing the importance of community at residence halls, attracting attention to the arts and humanities with Visions and Voices, bringing inspiring speakers to move students, attempting to regulate the excessive importance many students place on the Greek System – yet, they continue to fail to truly give space to students’ voices.
Meanwhile, a foundation named Posse achieves what universities like USC fully cannot: to positively challenge the norms of campus, to support students in fighting for what they deem essential in society, to look beyond the artificial constructs of what life should be versus what it can be.
Posse is a scholarship foundation that builds relationships with colleges and helps select students who, if accepted into a partner university, will have a posse of other scholars as support. It started in 1989 with Vanderbilt University as the first partner, and today Posse works with 51 universities. Every year, it organizes an annual retreat for each partner university, where scholars invite other students, faculty and staff for a weekend of debate on a topic chosen by all scholars nationwide.
This year’s was Social Movements: Rethink? Revolt? Reform? Over the weekend of the retreat, students discussed the current need for social movements, the importance of social improvement, the will to fight for what’s right, and most important, to truly listen to others and learn from them.
USC lacks diverse voices. It may have the greatest amount of international students than any other school in America, but it fails to build a community where these voices can be heard. At the Posse retreat, students of diverse backgrounds who are interested and invested in breaking harmful social norms and promoting inclusion found the space to speak to others about their concerns and ways to practically address them.
This is the type of engagement that USC and other universities do not yet accomplish on their own. Although it is true that USC does create this space through Posse, the university has recently decided to cut ties with the foundation and will no longer be recruiting other Posses in the future.
Quality education extends far beyond writing papers and attending classes – it demands encouragement, bravery, and focus. Posse has found a powerful way to kindle passion and determination in students by allowing them to spend a couple of days with people who will serve both as examples for the need of action in today’s world, and as open listeners to consider and support other students’ causes. If more universities implemented programs such as this, they would certainly have more students engaged in making a difference and impacting the world.