Everyone hears about the Gordon student who is overly involved. They are RA’s who play sports, are working on a double major, are involved in student government or CEC, work two jobs and somehow maintain an abundance of friends who all take the time to give a friendly wave as they walk through Jenks. But what about the extreme uninvolved? What about the Gordon students who live off campus, have always lived off campus and spend all their time off campus?
“At Gordon, life on campus is always exciting and always changing — From late night intramural sports like inner tube water polo to concerts by student artists and musicians to Ultimate Frisbee on the quad. There are activities for everyone; you’ll meet people just like you and you’ll make lifelong friends here. Come visit — experience life on campus for yourself. We know you’ll love it.”
I met Chris Miles a little over two years ago while visiting a good friend from Essex, MA. He was wearing one of those bomber hats, the ones with the ear flaps and normally some sort of fake fur, a ripped flannel and a ragged pair of jeans with Dr. Pepper pajama pants leaking through holes. When I look back on my time at Gordon College and think about people I would call my Gordon friends, Chris Miles will not stand out as one of those people. It’s not because Chris and I aren’t friends, we are great friends. It’s not because Chris isn’t a Gordon student, he’s an English major working on tying up the loose ends of his degree. It’s because in the two years I’ve known Chris, I’ve probably said less than one hundred words to Chris while actually on the Gordon campus. While that may be an exaggeration, although not to much of one, it paints a picture of a student who is elusive to even his good friends while on campus.
Currently Chris lives in Boxford, about half an hour away from Gordon, with his family. Chris spent his first semester of undergraduate education at Grove City College in Pennsylvania and says that his time in the dorms there was enough for him. Then, with a chuckle Chris smoothly transitions into scoffing at what Gordon charges for living in the dorms. It’s at this point that I start to really rope in why Chris is so uninvolved. Yeah, he has an entire life outside of Gordon, friends, job, etc… etc…but the tone of his voice reveals frustration as much as it does apathy.
Chris is probably a little cynical to begin with, its part of his personality, but the reality is Gordon College is not a super commuter friendly place. If you want to witness some of the most practiced eye rolling in the world bring up parking to any Gordon commuter. “I simply don’t have time for it.” Chris explains. Between work, homework, driving and personal life, a twenty minute walk across campus is valuable time wasted he explains. He expresses to me that he’s not trying to whiney but missing chapel by five minutes for the tenth time, being late to class regularly and having to plan in extra time to simply find a parking spot starts to wear on you eventually.
I’m sitting in Chris’s beat up Honda Civic as we rattle into the parking lot with fellow commuter Aidan Ostrowski. “I used to spend more time on campus,” Aidan explains but with removal of the skatepark on the old tennis courts, Gordon is simply a place to come for school and homework for him as well. Both Chris and Aidan are musicians and while they’ve both played a coffee house show put on by CEC, they say they haven’t been asked back. “We don’t make precious music and all of our songs are originals, that’s probably why” Chris chuckles, “I think sometimes people are a little put off by us for some reason or another.”
“It’s more than feeling unwelcome,” Chris points out. Leaving campus to these commuters is always more convenient that staying on. The cash prices on food or coffee without meals points is crippling, they explain. “Why would I spend my cash on watered down bistro coffee or overpriced food when I could drive ten minutes for the real thing for cheaper?” Aidan asks. The lack of quality food and beverage services pushes these guys to Beverly or Ipswich after class and at that point, they have no reason to return as long as they’re done with class for the day. If you ask either Chris or Aidan why they think people use Gordon’s services they’ll both answer somewhere along the lines of “they don’t know any better.” He admits a large part of his involvement at Gordon is by his own choice, but the environment Gordon has presented is not one he wants to squeeze into.
Outside of Gordon Chris is a fairly accomplished musicians who regularly plays shows with his band Hot Lemon, with whom he just finished up his second studio album. He builds his own guitars and knows more about guitar pedals than anyone should. He works as a carpenter and can fix all kinds of electronics with a little tinkering. Obviously Gordon cannot provide a niche for every student but perhaps with some improvement in food and beverage services and a more welcoming attitude by the student body, commuters like Chris would find Gordon as a place that’s more than just a building to take classes in.