Calvin College Chimes

Opinion: In defense of busy bulletin boards

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Chimes recently posted an article, and Calvin News & Stories another, describing and celebrating the newly renovated Hiemenga Hall. Arriving back on campus this fall, I too was floored by the study nooks and rich wood accents. However, I noticed that — along with comic strips on doors and a few beloved staff members — three large bulletin boards that used to exhibit student events and campus happenings had also disappeared from the hall.

I work in the student activities office under Ken Heffner. Part of my job is running around campus to hang posters for announcements, events and opportunities. Our old map accounts for nearly 60 boards; now I barely get through 35. I doubt it’s an explicit goal of any long-term plan, but the quiet elimination of these boards is a noticeable trend across campus. They often disappear even without a renovation.

At their busiest, Calvin’s bulletin boards are gaudy, bursting with competing visual stimulation. They’re the antithesis of a polished and professional campus image. I get it, and the new hallway looks fresher than an airport. But Heffner has said that the first thing he does when visiting another college is ask to see the bulletin boards.

“Presentations, pamphlets from their student life don’t necessarily tell you much. Show me the boards. The busier, the better,” he said. “That’s what students see, it’s what they really do. Now I know what’s going on.”

Culling the bulletin boards unintentionally saps this richness of student involvement, which is an essential component of the college’s wellness. It can be frustrating to try to cut through the noise of everything going on every day, but silencing its advertisement doesn’t focus and bolster student involvement — it only cheapens what we do, making outreach of all kinds less effective. To borrow a quote from Hannah Ebling’s article, I echo professor Craig Hanson concerning the Hiemenga renovations:

“I am really interested in how Calvin’s brand is communicated in subtle and nuanced ways.”

To go through Calvin College is to investigate a spectrum of new disciplines and conceptual worlds while specializing — majoring — in one, all while keeping an eye on holistic restoration. Doing Christian liberal arts academics for four years has been a joy. But it’s easy to forget what else characterizes a college experience: let’s not diminish what high school called “extracurriculars.”

Events, student groups, seminars, media, involvement — but especially the friends met and made through these — have shaped my personhood beyond an academic subject. They give nine months of our year depth beyond “How are classes?” Let’s keep those channels front and center, in every hallway and around every corner, even if they’re not so sleek.

Sometimes our college glorifies over-involvement, equating the over-scheduled student with the keen and passionate one. I’d instead suggest, pour yourself into one or two things outside the classroom. Make something yours. If you need ideas, check a bulletin board. If you don’t find it, start it, and put posters up wherever you can. It’s an expression of care. The busier the boards (not you) are, the better.

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