What is Community?
Community is a broad vision for campus life that allows all groups and individuals to learn, grow, and develop to their best potential in a challenging yet safe environment.
ACUI believes community begins with good communications, where we speak and listen to each other openly and honestly. It requires both courage and patience as we learn to confront, understand, and accept differences in cultures and experiences. Community calls again and again for objectivity because it constantly challenges our traditions, attitudes, lifestyles, behaviors, preconceived notions, and expectations. It is exciting and rewarding as the barriers of misunderstanding are dropped, and acceptance changes to respect, and ultimately to a celebration of cultures and differences.
As campus community builders, we believe that building community has five critical elements:
It is much easier to want to be inclusive than it is to be inclusive. Inclusiveness is more than just inviting someone different to join the group. It is a commitment to confront the differences within yourself and the other person so that we might transcend those differences.
Transformation versus conversion
People have a natural tendency to want to convert others. Conversion implies that the converter’s position, culture, or experience is better than that of others. In a true community, you respect differences and the right of a person to keep an individual opinion. People may change their opinions, but it will occur because of transformation, not conversion. Through transformation, a person is allowed to be an equal and to freely adapt or adopt another’s opinion. Transformation respects the rights of others to have their own opinions as well as the right of others to change or not to change.
Chaos and conflict are a natural part of the community-building process
It takes time for people to work through the evolution of understanding, accepting, respecting, and then celebrating differences. Not all people come to the table with the same level of skills, maturity, or objectivity. As a result, we can expect confrontation, anger, frustration, and alienation to occur. Suffice it to say that community building may sometimes be a lengthy and painful process, and we must learn to accept conflict and chaos as part of the natural community-building process.
An important key to community building is the individual community builder
A successful community builder must have the disposition, capacity, and commitment to create community. Someone with these characteristics will have the inner stamina and strength to stick with the process when community building takes wrong turns or fails. More often than not, community building requires a person who can manage the hurt and disappointments that come with risk taking, and who understands that the process is not always easy. If one believes in the value of community as the only way people will live together in a meaningful way, then the community builder will continue with the process, even in the face of anger, rage, or imminent failure.
A community builder must have a strong sense of self-awareness and self-understanding. Before one can be open and accepting of another’s differences, one needs to understand one’s own limitations.
Community building is a continual process
Community is not a product or a destination; it is a process that creates, evolves, and changes as it seeks to be inclusive. As a result, the commitment to being inclusive may cause a group to reach a newer level in community building, to repeat stages, or even to destroy itself to rebuild a new and truer community.
Updated Oct. 19, 2012