By Pasquale DiFrancesco,
During his visit to the Nov. 5 Allegheny Student Government meeting, President James H. Mullen Jr. began his address as usual, with a candid “thank you” to the crowd of on-looking students.
As a former senator and cabinet member on ASG, such an introduction was familiar. However, Mullen also said something I was not accustomed to hearing: he asked everyone for help.
“We have a huge agenda ahead for all of us. Among other tasks, we are trying to improve diversity initiatives, internship opportunities and grow our endowment,” Mullen said. “I need your help to answer the question, how do we best do this all together? How can we communicate in a way to make this work?”
Although complemented by difference, the Allegheny community has one core commonality: excellence in application. Students, faculty staff and administration are responsible for defining what it means to be a Gator. What we say and do within this community and beyond can have a lasting impact.
“Everything we do is about leaving a legacy,” Mullen said. “Lets define what the best is and do this for higher education.”
However, with Mullen’s travel schedule becoming increasingly more complex and the bicentennial fast approaching, he has not been at Allegheny as much as he would prefer.
“I miss you guys, my family, and Bentley the dog,” Mullen said.
Regardless, Mullen reassured the student body that this task is not as daunting as it might appear because it is a communal movement.
He stressed the need for a greater perspective and the realization that we are all integral pieces of the puzzle we call Allegheny.
Mullen set a standard for relating with the Meadville community.
“I think we are a place about civility,” Mullen said. “I think a marvelous way to show this civility is to simply take the time and say thank you to the cars that stop for you when crossing the street.”
This simple yet meaningful behavior is just one ways the Allegheny community can set the standard.
This was an encouraging addition to his already apparent desire to improve communication efforts with students at Allegheny.
On campus, Mullen is known for taking time to acknowledge students. Whether he is buying students breakfast at McKinley’s, cheering for the Gators among a crowd of sports fans, or simply saying hello as he passes, Mullen has a way of making students feel like they’re home at Allegheny.
“I need student contact,” Mullen said. “I like to wander. I probably get more out of that than you do.”
His outgoing personality and sense of pride for Allegheny truly exemplifies what it means to be a Gator.
“Some of my friends thought it was awesome to run into you and talk to you,” said Rose So, ’16, referring to his persistent consideration.
While continuing with his informal talk, Mullen also stressed enhancing more formal lines of communication as well.
“We want the president and the vice president of ASG to come and meet at the AEC [Administrative Executive Committee] meetings,” Mullen said. “We also want dinner opportunities with students and administration to improve these conversations.”
If there is anything Mullen’s message made clear, it is that we have a collective responsibility to define ourselves as a community.
However, I still too often hear complaints about Allegheny. I hear complaints that our SAT averages are low, our acceptance rate is too high, the college location is poor, or most recently that our community exudes mediocrity. I think nothing could be farther from the truth. If you are willing to be defined by mediocrity as a member of this community then you simply are insulting yourself. I believe Mullen’s message was about increasing perspective and promoting recognition of our ability to make a difference.
“There are conversations about Allegheny going on all over the country,” Mullen said. “When Washington Monthly rates you the 24th best liberal arts college in the country, that’s impressive because they rate on the impact students can have on the world, not about money in the endowment.”
For me, Mullen’s address was not a cry for help but a call to action. It is a call to study longer for that test, to wake up for Service Saturday when you’re tired, to apply for that internship you think you will never get, not just for yourself but for Allegheny and the community in which it resides.