Two trees, one college: Which Guilford is real?

Picture a tree. Better yet, let’s picture the same tree. That huge one on the edge of campus at the corner of Friendly and College comes to mind. Let’s think about that one. Imagine you and I both standing in front of that tree, beating our hands warm. Let’s say we are standing there, peering through the fog of our breath to describe that tree.

Suppose I say, “That tree is dark and powerful. Its roots are firm and its trunk is strong. The crags in the bark run like powerful fissures up into its sturdy limbs.”

That sounds like a tree that means business.

But let’s say that you, you my pal who stands in the cold to describe trees with me; let’s say you look at that tree and say, “It is young and vulnerable. The tree’s delicate limbs reach far out, grasping for love in the world. That tree’s life has only just begun, and it still has a lot of rich growing to do.”

What a happy, hippy little tree.

And both perspectives are valid. But suppose someone intercepted and divided us on our way to the tree, trying to convince us, separately, of two different realities of the tree.

That’s not cool. But that is exactly what Guilford is doing.

On Guilford’s website you can click on Future Students and then select your category. Two are particularly interesting: high school and adult.

For high school students we see the usual spiel about “spiritual growth,” “free society,” “commitment to society,” and so on. Yes, if you come to Guilford your limbs will reach out and cradle the world.

But the adult section is something totally different. Bullet points! WHAM – class size! POW – scholarships! “Easy application … free resources … services specifically for adults.” Wow, this school has powerful fissures galore and we mean business.

The college’s intentions are obvious; they are advertising the points that the two demographics are most interested in. And, if you are an open-minded, peace-loving sucker like me, you might think there is nothing wrong with that – at first.

But then it will hit you, or I’ll hit you with it: Guilford is selling itself as two different schools -two different trees – entirely.

For traditional students we are an institution of nurture and growth. That sounds like just the place for you and your tree, my frostbitten friend. How fortunate.

For CCE students we are hardened and firm, a school that cares only about the business of getting that degree fast. My tree and I will do quite well here.

Unfortunately you and I were misled. We are shocked to find that we are actually attending the same school.

But my description was so totally different from yours.

When someone dichotomizes a thing so completely we should always be suspicious. When Guilford tries to be one thing for one group and something else for another, it lies to both.

When prospective students come to Guilford they are surprised with the reality. Traditional and CCE students co-exist equally in the classrooms. This leaves a bitter taste in our mouths, as if we are expected to make the best of things, given the sad reality.

What’s really sad is that the college administration feels the need to advertise a mythical segregation of our community. Incoming students should not be forced into the reality of a fragmented student body.

Guilford is not a college of either spiritual growth or two-nights-a-week classes; it is both. And we should be proud of that, because that is what this school is and what it is trying to be.

I want to see that advertised to every person who looks at this college.

Let’s go back to our tree. Let’s jog in place a little to get the blood flowing and think about that tree. If you call it vulnerable and I call it strong then I say “great,” because we can both see the tree and appreciate each other’s interpretation.

But I ask you, my cherry-nosed friend: what good is the tree to either of us if the man comes along and cuts it in half, one for each of us? Not much.