Cum gratia officium. With gifting comes responsibility.
While that may sound like a tagline straight out of Spider-Man, that is in fact the motto of the Templeton Honor College here at Eastern University. The Templeton Honors College, THC from here on out, serves as one of the many colleges within Eastern that prides itself on a rigorous curriculum, dedicated faculty,
and talented students. Unfortunately these ideals remain in the world of the forms that THC so loves to
talk about and the responsibility they feel comes with “gifting” is left unfulfilled. This THC student has found that the promises of meaningful conversations, real world problems, and rich personal formation have been nothing more than empty lies meant to protect an elitist institution.
From the very beginning of students’ time here at Eastern, mine included, THC strives to set their students apart from the rest of Eastern’s academic community. They whisk away the freshman for a camping trip in the Adirondacks, and the students return in the middle of freshman orientation after the rest of the students have already gathered and met one another.
For almost the entirety of their first two semesters, freshmen in THC are hidden away from the rest of
the university, taking different versions of the same general education courses that the rest of the university takes, only they take them exclusively with Templeton students and professors. In this, Templeton students are alienated, immersed, and for many overwhelmed.
Existing almost entirely within the sphere of THC as one adjusts to college life is bound to create some
kind of problem, if for no reason other than the fact that humans are created to be in community with one another and THC operates as one big competition, both within itself and with the university at large.
Students every year share how incompetent they feel in the THC classrooms while also sticking their noses in the air whenever they are around students outside of Templeton, relying on the gold medal (literally given at graduation) of THC to distinguish their work from their peers.
Threads of elitism begin to peek through, subtly at first with the reminders to enrolled students that when we engage with the “western literary canon”, we enter into a “great conversation” that has been going on for hundreds of years (they tell that to a bunch of nervous freshmen and expect their egos to stay the same size?), but becomes more overt as time goes on: explicit acknowledgement of visitors’ unwanted presences at THC events, conversations meant to exclude those not in THC classes, and the increasingly formal “celebrations” of students which serve as fundraising opportunities.
In the age of COVID, Templeton’s elitism has gone so far that it seems as if they are even too good
for a pandemic; frequent lack of masking and social distancing were encouraged during their orientation
program under the guise of the new students being “adults capable of making their own decisions.” While I have personally referred to THC as a plague more times than I can count, I never expected that comparison to come anywhere near reality.
How an institution like THC has managed to continue the way it has at a place like Eastern truly
baffles me. Ideals like “faith, reason, and justice,” “courage,” and community engagement (“wake up the
world”) have defined Eastern University for quite some time, but Templeton continually stands in opposition to these ideals as they push a singular narrative devoid of any real world application of the concepts they pretend are crucial to personal and spiritual formation.
Add in the sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, all of which have been addressed by
students and ignored by faculty, and well, this THC student would like to exchange this “gift” for something a little better.