Hippo City

James Eric Prichard

Last week’s column, which garnered rave reviews from many, ended with a jab at SoundBoard. Some have questioned the straightforwardness of my comments, noting that Skyler Silvertrust has been a business associate of mine in many ventures. These people fail to observe that even though Skybox is currently an integral part of the organization, he is not its only member. Other students are involved in the group and residence, and they play an important part in shaping the perception of SoundBoard on campus.
At a larger school students might not be acquainted with anyone in a certain group, and so they consider the group impersonally. UW-Madison’s Habitat for Humanity chapter will be known for its visible efforts to do good, and not its individual members. Even when more human characteristics are attached to a group, the group is still considered in an impersonal manner. Sorority X, for example, might be known not just for the events it hosts but also for the fact that its members are all rich suburban girls. The campus conception of this sorority is more personal than that of Habitat, but it is still much less personal than conceptions of groups at Lawrence because it is painted with broad strokes that don’t accurately consider the group’s specific individuals.
Lawrence is different because here you will probably know at least a few people in nearly every group on campus. The school is too small for a group, be it a sports team, social club, or collection of residents to be thought of as an impersonal entity. When you’ve had personal interactions with a member of a group, you prioritize those interactions over the group’s official functions when forming your opinions. Our emotional attachments or aversions to members will be stronger than our feelings about the group’s actions, except on rare occasions, such as the Viking Conservatives’ poster incident.
This personal criterion for evaluating student organizations may seem unfair because it does not consider the group, but only those people who happen to be members. Whether basing one’s judgment on feelings toward members instead of the group’s conscious efforts is morally just or not is neither here nor there; the fact remains that individuals are responsible for the campus conceptions of their organizations.
Therefore, when judging SoundBoard, you’re not going to consider SoundBoard’s actions as a group, but its members, or possibly the fact that it has a house if you happen to be a big baby who is strongly emotionally attached to 738 East John St. When you’re mentioning SoundBoard in a column, you will not remember Sundays at the Union, but the time when you went over to SoundBoard House and that one girl was a real jerk to you. Her actions shape your opinion of the group. Moreover, when you think of other members of the group you will impose your jerk-influenced conception onto them. Every member of SoundBoard is tainted by her.
For those still wondering why people dislike your group, it’s because there are jerks in it. People care not about Anchor Splash, but about that DG with a grating personality. They don’t care about your club’s meetings as much as the fact that your president is capitally unpleasant, and even if your frat is 90 percent terrific guys, freshmen won’t want to be lumped together with that 10 percent. If you want to improve the campus perception of your group, kick out the jerks.