We Create Culture

By Alyssa Tirrell ‘22

The reports of suspected drink tampering escalated on Saturday, September 8th with the closure of Armfield. Throughout that evening, sitting in the lounge with my hallmates, the instances were a main point of conversation. As first years, our limited knowledge of the culture of Davidson, combined with the limited amount of official information regarding the incidents, resulted in fairly circular conversation. 

People began by trading rumors: things they had heard from friends or upperclassmen about what had happened in the past, what was happening now, and what might happen next. The biggest concern, the point around which every conversation seemed to circle, was the question of Davidson culture: how would this affect our community and our ability to trust each other? 

“I’m concerned,” a friend said, “because I have female friends. I would never want anything like this to happen to them.” 

We all agreed. This was a familiar perspective in our conversation, and I was glad to know that someone empathized with the disproportionate risk that the situation posed to women and non-cisgender people. The more I considered his point, however, I wondered if this mindset was indicative of our way of tackling issues which seem to primarily affect a single demographic. I appreciate my friend’s willingness to support and sympathize with something he believes does not personally concern him, but I would argue that it does and should personally concern him. It should concern all of us, in an almost selfish way, not simply as people who have friends at risk. 

Sitting in our lounge discussing “the Davidson culture,” I doubt that many of us were picturing the effects of the situation on a culture decades in the future. We were imagining our own friends, our own relationships, and our own ways of interacting socially, which we wanted to protect. Community is personal to each of us and therefore what affects our community is personal to each of us as well.

Our concern as individuals, for our own sake as much as anyone else’s, makes all the difference in how we approach this difficult situation and the action we take against it.  We should not be invested in the issue of drink tampering only for the sake of others; we should be invested because the issues of the community are the concern of every individual regardless of who is seemingly directly affected.

This concept of individual investment goes beyond the single subject of drink tampering which tempts us to divide ourselves by gender. As the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stated in a TedTalk titled “We Should All be Feminists”, “Culture does not create people; people create culture.” Each of us experiences our own challenges, whether they be based in race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or any other kind of inequality, and these struggles are deeply connected to our community’s culture.

However, we don’t just create culture through our struggles, but through our reaction to them. We can begin to create a different culture if we practice changing our sympathy-based conversations into conversations in which we take these issues personally and see them as intersecting. The way we acknowledge the relationship between the struggles of others and our own well-being will create the culture we want to see. 

Alyssa Tirrell ‘22 is an undeclared student from Atlanta, Georgia. Contact her at altirrell@davidson.edu 


Note: the print version of this piece incorrectly stated that Patterson Court, not Armfield, was closed on September 8. 

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