Georgetown Without Absolutes

In my freshman spring, I took “Intro to Justice and Peace Studies” with Professor Andrea Wisler. In one of our first sessions, she had us do an exercise that evaluated our beliefs in various spiritual or moral concepts through a series of statements. JUPS has changed the way I think countless times, but one particular statement in this exercise, and my reaction to it, has stuck with me more than most things throughout the rest of my education: “There is such a thing as evil.”

I left it blank until I had completed the exercise. When I returned to it, I thought for several moments and gnawed on my pen before circling “1: strongly disagree.” Belief in pure evil requires a strong belief in some pure higher being, too, and since I had no idea where I stood on that front, I went with my optimistic gut. Spiritual and moral absolutism always seemed irrational to me, anyhow; every circumstance I can think of is far more complex than is allowed for by simple labels like good and evil.

After four years at Georgetown, I have never been surer of absolutism’s irrationality. For reasons that I have neither the space nor the desire to explain here, much of my time at this school has been very, very hard. There have been entire years during which the campus did not feel like mine and nights when I have been afraid to leave my dorm. There have been multiple classes in which I have cried and tried very poorly to hide it — which, if it has ever happened to you, is the worst feeling; don’t look at me unless I’m perfectly coiffed and composed, thanks. No one knows this, but there were even a few days where I thoroughly researched what it would mean for me to take a leave of absence.

That said, some aspects of my time at Georgetown have been wonderfully uplifting and I encountered many of them because of the same circumstances that made me miserable. I have learned a boatload about friendship from several wonderful people, from one friend who sat up with me until 5 a.m., crying along with me and making me laugh at stupid Dove chocolate wrapper quotes, to another who knew exactly when to push me out of my sullen spells and when to leave me be. I have built relationships with a legion of inspiring, kick ass women: Jen Schweer (my on-campus mother figure), Carol Day (whose belief in me is seemingly endless), my thesis mentor Sarah Stiles (who deserves all the hype she gets and then some), my goddess of a therapist (whom I count among my friends), Stacy from Leo’s (who crafts near-masterpieces without pomp and circumstance) and many more. My relationship with my parents has shifted from one of loving utilitarianism into one of mutual respect. Best of all, I have changed, too. Freshman-year me might have hardly recognized the stronger, wiser, braver and more curious person I have become.

As you have probably noticed on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat and Pinterest and Yik Yak and and Jeeves and Tinder and Webkinz and Real Human Interaction, absolutism about the Georgetown experience is positively infectious this time of year. It is so easy to whitewash our time on the Hilltop when the sunshine makes your skin all warm and the blossoms on the Copley Lawn trees fall just right. But graduation, just like all major life transitions, should not be that easy. I would bet all the money in my wallet ($6.84) that I am not the only one with complex feelings about their time at Georgetown, and hey, guess what? It’s cool. Life is complex.

If you are one to sentimentalize the last four years, maybe take some time to reflect on your tougher Georgetown moments and how you have changed for the better because of them. If, like me, you are inclined to think of the whole shebang as a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots fight where your guy’s arms don’t work properly, maybe take some time to sit in the warm sunshine on Copley Lawn and remember why you came here in the first place: to experience things you could not quite conjure and, in turn, to be somehow transformed.

No matter what, remember that building up your time on the Hilltop as impossibly perfect or impossibly tragic ultimately diminishes the massive accomplishment that graduation is meant to represent. The Georgetown experience, for me, has been so many things: exhausting, isolating, deeply sad, illuminating, zany and full of love. I deserve to celebrate my perseverance despite the bad as well as my luck for having found the good. So do you.

Emlyn Crenshaw is a senior in the College. She is the former executive producer of the Georgetown Improv Association.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.


  1. Roger de Coverly says:

    “Belief in pure evil requires a strong belief in some pure higher being.”

  2. Kevin Kimes says:

    “I won’t explain my position but listen to me talk about my feelings.”

    This is anti-intellectual, self-centered drivel. Also, the transition from a discussion of moral absolutism to the challenges faced over 4 years has absolutely no logical connector here; it’s like reading 2 separate essays or disjointed thoughts.

  3. Nick Luongo says:

    The previous commenters seem to be taking the author’s remarks about absolutism the wrong way – as I admittedly did as well on my first read. As a logical and moral claim, the relativism the author implies obviously calls for argument. But this article is not meant to defend a philosophical position. Accordingly, the introduction could have been better thought-out. Nevertheless, the reader should not allow this to distract them from the real point of the article: a suggestion to reflect honestly on both the positive and negative facets of one’s experience at Georgetown.

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