As I look forward to my departure from EMU, processing where I stand with the community, the space, and the culture of EMU is incredibly overwhelming. Leaving EMU is not evoking experiences that are limited to four years, but rather an entire life around Harrisonburg, and a wealth of experiences at Lindale Mennonite Church and Eastern Mennonite School — middle and high school — in addition to EMU. It really feels like the longest chapter of my life is over.
The only genuine way to phrase what it feels like to be peering over the edge with the knowledge that the community I have invested more than half my life into will go on without me is unnerving. I have absolutely no clue how the rest of my life post-Harrisonburg will play out as I plan to trek to Baltimore. But I very much feel the need to give my due respect to the people that have helped shape and mold me for my time here at EMU — and as an entity and a community of people, The Weather Vane absolutely is one of the most important formative experiences I have ever had.
By working at The Weather Vane, I’ve cultivated my skills, my passion for writing, my interest in journalism, and my love of stories. My decision to work for The Weather Vane was fully impulsive. I, much like many people who write for The Weather Vane, just wanted a voice, a platform, a place where I could be heard. EMU isn’t always an easy place to have your voice heard.
Now, I am not going to suggest that I am in this demographic: I am actively aware of my privilege, as well as the fact that I grew up a straight white male cultural Mennonite, and the fact that I have an amazing community of wonderful people surrounding me at EMU.
But I see a lot of people who don’t have a good experience at EMU, people who feel marginalized, ignored, hurt, abused, and judged. I found that The Weather Vane had an important function as a platform for voices that wouldn’t get heard otherwise, or at least, it could be that. I wanted and still want to cultivate and help shape The Weather Vane into a space in which all voices could be heard and taken seriously, even if they aren’t written by a liberal Mennonite.
As I prepare to plunge in the harsh, cold, unblinking world that is the post-graduation job market, I at least have found solace this semester in meeting the high number of wonderful first-years who have so much enthusiasm, potential, and passion for investing in and shaping our community. I think that The Weather Vane is an important resource for engaging with the community at large and sparking dialogue. There are a lot of issues at EMU that I’m sure most of you are tired of me talking about all the time.
Unaddressed Mennonite privilege is a big one, as is the tension between our humanist and Mennonite values. Racism, sexual assault, financial instability, depression, and anxiety are all factors that disproportionately affect specific students that, as a result, don’t see our Mennonite community as welcoming, but indifferent at best and antagonistic at worst.
I understand that The Weather Vane hasn’t always been immune to these issues, and no matter our intentions, we have messed up on multiple occasions, and our intentions don’t matter half as much as our execution. But I truly think that The Weather Vane has fostered an environment where we can address these issues in the offices, maintain a supportive and welcoming community, and continue to challenge EMU and ourselves to consider how our explicit and implicit actions affect everyone.