Do your part to make campus a friendly place for all UK students

Column by Duke Gatsos

Look up, see … blue? When I walk through campus with my head up, what I usually see are faces turned the other way, downcast glances, headphones or telephones.

I have informally conducted an impromptu survey of how friendly UK is of late. On a rough scale, perhaps one of every 10 strangers smiles or says hello. Somewhere along the way, our campus has become a colder place.

Many traditions should be put aside for their antiquity and irrelevance, but good ‘ole Southern hospitality is not one of them. I’m pretty sure I have no unseemly growths on my face, my hair is somewhat kempt, my clothing is at least acceptable, I’m in control of bodily functions; no, the reason people don’t make eye contact with me is not my fault — unless someone needs to unveil a nasty rumor about me I have yet to discover.

Since I’ve arrived on campus this fall, I’ve done my part to make a new start and part of that has been to be friendly, to imagine everyone who is a part of this campus as important to the “UK nation”.

Our marketers want us to look up and “See Blue.” To date, the ambiguous blue blob has yet to be defined, so let’s define it ourselves. Blue is supposed to represent the values of us, Big Blue Nation.

We get to determine our own culture, based on our behavior, how we interact with each other. I propose blue should at least in part contain kindness.

That sense of kindness is certainly evident in activities like FUSION, DanceBlue and the host of other philanthropic adventures across our campus every year. We are indeed beginning to be defined as caring and active citizens.

Is it really difficult to look up, make eye contact with the person walking by and say, “hey (insert your own appropriate greeting)” or at least smile? Sure, you don’t know the stranger, and this is no invitation to intimacy or to join your social sphere. Social groups are important.

Most of my significant growth as a person happened because I was a part of strong, small-group communities. I’m not suggesting we break out of our tight-knit groups. This is an invitation, however, to make yourself part of something bigger, a larger sphere of influence.

As a campus, as a university, we can establish within our culture the idea of friendliness. The trend across our country toward coldness and self-absorption can be averted here. How refreshing would it be to walk the five to 25 minutes (I promise a take on the parking monster in another column once I’ve appropriately secured my graduation) across campus and receive five to 25 greetings? Would it make your day?

At the very least, it should impress that you belong to more than just a college. UK is a community and a culture bigger than any one group or person. Individually, daily, we define that culture through our actions and attitudes. Blue can come to be equated with a warm, welcome environment.

Change starts with each one of us looking up and being and seeing a smiling face, seeing blue.