We don’t define our realities from the beginning. Our families train the eyes that see right from wrong, they shape the mouth that learns what is appropriate and what is best left unsaid and they try their best to position the feet that eventually walk to what we would define as a successful life.
Isn’t that what family means — shelter, support, belonging and love? Some would say yes, but there are many sides Auburn omits from its popular label, “Auburn Family.”
On photos dressed with waving orange and blue shakers, posters scattered in the hands of football fans and on navy T-shirts, the words “Auburn Family,” “Family All In” and “Welcome Home” enforce the idea that Auburn University is a second family to anyone who decides they want some association with the University. This may give students a sense of belonging, especially during the first semester or year in a new place, and I believe Auburn wants to create a positive image for students to walk into, but can Auburn really earn the title of family in peoples’ lives just by saying so?
When I was looking for a college to choose, I heard and read so much about this “Auburn Family.” I heard it as a sales pitch. I knew it was an attempt at persuasion, but it lacked sincerity to me. I wasn’t looking for another family, so I didn’t want to be part of the “Auburn Family.”
Rather, I wanted to be a part of “Auburn University.” A family can’t be bought with tuition, scholarships, good test scores or essays. Families don’t get to approve their members. The relationship of school as family was implausible to me, and that “family” as a sea of orange and blue in a football stadium even more so.
Though I think it’s a brilliant marketing attempt to associate college and family, and I see parallels between the two — learning, growing, belonging — I think the phrase misses the mark.
Perhaps family is the wrong word.
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Why is it that we don’t call it the family of the United States, the family of Alabama or the family of the human race? One distinguisher may be that I’ve disagreed with each others’ beliefs and activities, and people are reluctant to try to understand one another like a family would.
Also, families aren’t large scale. They’re intimate. True relationships and trust are found in the smaller places of a family and are earned over time.
These are traits a university cannot achieve, no matter how many of us love what we’re studying or the sports teams or our organizations.
There are stark divides, or cliques, in large groups. We either bud off into our own smaller cluster or we never quite find our niche. Nevertheless, Auburn University students share a similar foundation: the University. Which is what defines a community, rather than a family.
We’re also in families because that’s what we’re born into. Over time, we have associated the people who have invested time and energy and, quite literally, DNA into who we are as our family. It cannot be forced upon us the moment we step on a college campus.
Just because we choose Auburn University does not mean we choose to devote our lives and energy into every aspect of the school. That’s impossible.
Family implies we choose to be selfless for people we love — we accept the secrets, the achievements and the failures. It is a selfless life. It is a daunting task. It requires honesty.
There is a difference between being a student and a family member, a fan and a family member or a graduate and family member.
The Auburn Family is a reality I believe is well meant by the University, but it is a marketing slogan. It is used to construct the reality that if you join the University, if you have the slightest association with Auburn, you are a part of the family.
But it is impossible for Auburn University to love you. Auburn University cannot cry with you; it cannot empathize. It’s simply too large.
Though Auburn University can’t provide families, it can foster family-like connections. We often find neighbors, brothers, sisters and life-long friends to support us.
Those should be appreciated at another level while we save family for where it belongs in the hierarchy of relationships.
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