Over at Baylor's Campus Living and Learning Department (fancy word for "dorms,") they've been promoting the great postmodern buzzword community for at least six years now. Yet if you want to know what Baylor really feels about the community it is nestled in, look no further than this year's Waco Christmas parade.
Britt, Holly, and I met early for dinner at Ninfa's. I decided the parade might be more enjoyable with a substance other than blood in my blood, so I had a margarita. Since Ninfa's is famous for getting you in and out as quickly as possible, we had some time left over so we made a stop over at Cricket's for a beer. I should have drank more.
The experience wasn't a total disaster. I mean, a night out with friends beats most things in the world. And the fact that the parade was extremely bad didn't totally ruin the evening either. The next best thing to a very good parade is a very bad parade, and this parade was very bad. There were no bands. Most of the entries looked as if they had made a wrong turn onto Austin Avenue and decided to just follow the traffic to city hall, where there seemed to be a crowd gathering for some reason. On top of that there were multiple Santas, which is extremely insensitive to a.) children who still believe in Santa Clause, b.)parents who now have to answer difficult questions about why there were several Santa Clauses and, c.) Santa Clause. The parade was such a joke that we decided to be in on it and joined the procession after the last float went by. We walked the last few blocks waving to the crowd and shaking hands. It was a genius act of humor on my behalf, if I do say so myself.
But the most disappointing thing about the whole fiasco wasn't what was in the parade, but what wasn't. Other than a a modest number of folks in the crowd who appeared to be students, there was no visible Baylor participation in the evening whatsoever. No band. No Greek organization, ROTC, or athletic team. Not even a single member of the administration sat on top of their rich-person car waving at their peasant subjects from the other side of the interstate.
So what? Does a lack of participation in a fourth rate parade validate the perception that the Baylor community is aloof when it comes to Waco civic life?
I think yes.
To be fair, I don't hold the view that Baylor does nothing good for the city of Waco. Institutions aiming to address race, poverty, and other social issues in this town would not survive without participation from the many wonderful Baylor students who have answered what they feel a call from God to cross the interstate and be the presence of Christ by getting their hands dirty in the midst of "the least of these." Yet all to often this assistance is seen as either training for a life in ministry in a more sexy city or as an opportunity to fulfill some organizational requirement for community service.
There is a sense that Baylor is an associate of Waco, and vice versa, but that neither truly belong to the other. Nothing exposes this more clearly than an event that's purpose is to showcase people and groups who value the community, and who the community values. It's time for both the city and the university to stop pretending it cares about the other, and to start caring for the other.