Questioning Our Barriers

by Karmen Smith

As students, most of us have become familiar with the Millsaps strategic plan of engaging “Across the Street and Around the Globe,” a mantra that accurately describes many of Millsaps’ current ventures and future goals. However, while students and faculty members work to transform these goals into accomplishments, one huge, literal barrier is in our way: the black, iron fence surrounding our beautiful campus.

The fence is a controversial symbol. It does serve to protect the safety of our students, staff and faculty, and prevent some unwanted visitors from getting onto our campus. It relieves campus security of some of the tremendous pressure they feel to keep everyone safe. However, many students have witnessed wild dogs roaming around campus. It stands to reason that if a wild dog is intelligent enough to get around the fence, a functioning human being can get in also. I am by no means trying to frighten anyone; I am merely suggesting that the fence is not serving its intended purpose.

Although the fence was built to ensure a feeling of security on campus, it does the opposite. While I am sure the barbed wire was added to ensure a particular feeling of security, it only furthers the message that Midtown is too dangerous for students to visit. Simultaneously, the Midtown community receives the message that Millsaps wants no part of the experiences and knowledge they can share with us. Those who do dare to embrace this vibrant and unfortunately neglected community are faced with chains and locks at the access of the gate. The thick chains and locks designed to keep out others who seek to do harm also keep students trapped in.

I volunteer every Friday at the Mississippi Children’s Home, which is almost directly across from Murrah Hall. Because of all the construction going on, it should be easier for me to walk across the street than to drive. Sadly, I waste 15 minutes every visit entering a special combination, trying to undo the lock that frequently gets jammed, and removing the heavy chains before I can even get through the gate. Once I successfully exit campus, I must wrap the chains back around the gate and reposition the lock to make sure that I leave the gate as I found it, locked. Trying to get through the gate definitely causes me to feel discouraged. There have been times, despite how much I love working at the Children’s Home, where I have wondered if it is even worth the trouble.

As students, we have the duty to continuously hold our college community to high academic and moral standards. So if we say that we are going to go “Across the Street and Around the Globe,” isn’t that what we should do? Isn’t it time that we as a college community of scholars practice what we preach?