Gearing up for a sense of community at community college



The entrance to the ECC bookstore.

Lukas Munoz, Managing Editor

I have always had a sense of pride in my status as an Elgin Community College student. In part, because I might be the closest thing to an ECC legacy student. Three of my family members have graduated from ECC and my mother was once enrolled in ESL classes at ECC. As a result, many times I have entered the ECC bookstore with an overindulged wallet and bought ECC gear and apparel. Yet, despite my love for the college, all my ECC apparel has been relegated to the back of my closet by virtue of its blatant ugliness. 

The gear and apparel section at the front of the bookstore is hardly impressive. The designs are plain, either simply displaying the ECC logo or the name of the school, and often the size of the gear runs either too small or too large. It was not until this last semester that I noticed that the bookstore began selling name brand (Champion) gear, which this journalist promptly purchased and then returned for a size exchange. 

My friends and family, who have attended four-year institutions, for Christmas or a birthday have bought me gear from their institutions that have been, unlike ECC’s gear, both comfortable and fashionable. 

However, the implication is not that this is an issue that universally plagues community colleges.

“I would go to schools like Kishwaukee or COD and be blown away by the merch offered. They had an amazing variety in gear and apparel,” said Tim Anderson, the ECC speech coach, who regularly visits other community colleges for speech tournaments. 

While this may seem like a small issue for a student to complain about, the reality is that a lack of appealing merchandise at ECC affects the experience students have at ECC because this issue undercuts a sense of school spirit on ECC’s campus. 

Visiting different college campuses this year while debating on where to transfer to, I saw that many of the students at other campuses wore the gear of those schools. Wearing school gear is much more than a fashion statement because on college campus school gear gives a sense of unity—a sense that students of that school, regardless of their distinct backgrounds, can rally behind and build a community based on shared identity. Unfortunately, because the gear at ECC is not fashionable this is not the case at ECC.

At ECC students rarely wear ECC gear and this can be a result of several factors. It could be said that many ECC students are transient students that do not become involved on campus in their time at ECC and therefore do not build an affinity towards ECC or sense of pride about ECC. These students would most likely not own or wear ECC gear. However, not all ECC students are transient students. Some students become deeply involved at ECC and therefore build an affection for ECC. Students like the ones I meet through my involvement with the Phi Theta Kappa honors society would fit this second description. However, I would just as rarely see this group of students wear ECC gear as the first group.

If this second group of students would more often wear ECC gear, then a larger sense of school pride would begin to develop that would transform some of the transient students into the committed, involved student building a larger student community at ECC. 

However, this does not happen because the gear available to students is not appealing. In my time at ECC, I have bought two shirts and a hoodie. It’s fair to say that I’ve only worn the uncomfortable, unappealing ECC shirts and hoodie a couple of times whereas the comfortable sweatshirt I bought from my transfer destination I have worn countless times. While I am excited about attending my transfer institution, I have yet to develop the sensation of pride about my transfer institution whereas at ECC I have developed that sense of pride. In short, I wear my transfer institution sweatshirt not because I have more pride in that school but rather simply because the sweatshirt is more fashionable.

Looking forward, ECC has the opportunity to encourage transient students to find a sense of community within ECC when its campus begins to gradually reopen this coming fall. Hosting on-campus events and promoting clubs may be one way to accomplish this, but so could improving the quality of ECC gear available in the bookstore.