We lack human connection on campus

That’s nothing a student union can’t solve

Students walk all over campus with their heads lowered, their eyes on their iPhones (or Samsungs, we don’t judge) and they keep walking, oblivious to their surroundings, oblivious to the fall colors slowly painting the trees on campus, oblivious to their peers and the possibility of human interaction.

When students do hold their heads upright, with their phones in their pocket their social interactions are limited to hanging out in a classroom or outside by the lunch tables.

Students are more attracted to indoor locations as they have access to technology, but being inside, in a classroom, they’re in the one place that usually demands work from them.

As a school, we have discussed the lack of human connection brought on by many factors, including technology and the social isolation that follows suit. We have discussed lowering screen time. We’ve discussed the detrimental effects of social media on self-esteem. We’ve discussed making sure students feel connected to an adult on campus. It seems we have discussed every facet of this issue. But, we’ve never really discussed a concrete solution.

We can’t provide a world-wide solution, but we can start with a potential solution for our campus. If technology is ruling our lives then let’s manipulate that reality. In college, there is a central indoor location for all students called a student union that is host to lounges, auditoriums, offices, even game rooms — all for student use and to encourage student interaction. How about we make something similar at our school?

There is no place for students to simply hang-out inside with their peers. Let’s create an indoor area for people to charge phones, laptops and Chromebooks — maybe they’ll talk while they charge. Add some couches and basic kitchen utilities such as a microwave and a fridge, and it will feel like home. The Oak Park High School campus population would be able to comfortably interact in an indoor area with their peers, forging human connection in a small space, designated not just for lunch or learning, but for interacting and relaxing.

Teachers wouldn’t have to give up their classrooms for clubs, we could have a central location for different groups to meet. There could be an area designated just for sleeping where sleep-deprived students could take a quick nap. Tutoring. Board games. Class parties. The possibilities are endless.

Let’s even add some desk-top computers, some printers and some relaxing instrumental jazz (music genre non-negotiable). Even with technology being the Orwellian nightmare that it is, human connection is possible, it might just need a little nudge and a little space.

We are in desperate need of a social culture shift, maybe this is the push we need. We can fight the issues brought upon by social isolation on campus — all we need is a space, a student union.

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