There are two rooms tucked away on the second floor of the Beeghly Library. They are about four feet wide and six feet long and are furnished with only two chairs, a lamp, and a two and a half by four-foot piece of wood for a desk. The walls are made of pegboard, and the paint, where it hasn’t been peeled away or graffitied, is an off white. The graffiti is as diverse in subject matter as it is abundant on the desk top and some of the walls. To my left there is a list of all the amino acids accompanied by their structures, and to my right a clever student has used one of the holes in the pegboard to draw an eye. But it is the graffiti on the desk that has truly caught my eye tonight. There are names, movie quotes, some Korean words, two lines of what looks to be Arabic, several complaints about finals, and a poll asking whether or not the graffiti artist should leave Juniata.
Each time I return to this particular room I am in tonight, my eyes are drawn to that question, and each time I smile at the thirteen yeses (stay), the one no (leave) and the other tally that seems to be voting for nothing in particular. I know Juniata is not for everyone. We lack a lot of specific majors (even though the POE program allows for the creation of a personalized field of study), some students don’t like rural areas, and others may want to play D1 sports.
But I’d like to think that Juniata has a lot more to offer than the opportunity to play on a varsity D1 team, as prestigious as that may be. Since it was founded in 1876, Juniata has striven to create a welcoming and diverse environment for its students. Because of that we now have a Quidditch team playing on the same campus where the Ultimate Frisbee kids throw and the Rugby teams scrum. Sports aside, we have several cultural clubs (Umoja, French, Amigos de Guanin, Burmese, Chinese, German, Russian, and more at http://legacy.juniata.edu/life/clubs.html ) that hold dinners and cultural events throughout the year to spread the knowledge of and appreciation for their respective cultures. And as a kind of corollary to our many cultural clubs, Juniata has an amazing study abroad program, with exchange partnerships all over the world, from France and Russia to India and Australia.
College is a time to step out of your normal comfort zone and discover something new about yourself or the world, and the people at Juniata, from President Troha to the freshmen, do their best to foster an environment where people feel comfortable to do so. No matter who you are, what you like to do, or what you want to do with your life, there is a place for you here at Juniata. Even if that place is a room tucked away on the second floor of the Beeghly Library, covered with the names and art of those who have come before and found their place here at Juniata.
Juniata has a Quidditch team? Sold! Too bad my college days are so far behind me.