As I walk into the quiet, dimly lit room, the smell of incense immediately envelops me while hushed chatter simmers. Students look around at one another, showing elation at a familiar face among unknown others. The group is much larger than expected for a club that was advertised by word of mouth with very little description of what it actually was. There was no mission statement, no overall goal—just people getting together. Perhaps that was the appeal.
Together Against the Grain is a budding club on Santa Clara’s campus that seeks to create a space for students to discuss, reflect, and find solace with their peers to develop a community that many may not find here.
The group comes together and forms a large circle to begin meditating to the soothing voice of Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. After a few moments of quiet reflection, the group is given questions to think about and write down in personal journals. Everyone scribbles furiously, periodically stopping to stare into empty space.
The deep silence is cut as the group comes together to discuss their thoughts with everyone else. Brief apprehension commands the circle until a small voice speaks up, providing a gateway for conversation. Students from multiple backgrounds and experiences smile, laugh, and connect with one another. Friendships are both made and made stronger.
Ian Layton, ’13, and Joe Alexander-Short, ’14, created the club with a mutual uneasy association with the university culture while studying abroad in El Salvador.
“We connected on the fact that we didn’t feel comfortable with [SCU’s] culture. There was a disconnect,” said Layton. “Something wasn’t right.”
Alexander-Short acknowledged that Santa Clara culture was based on networking and seeking to know many different types of people. The problem comes from not really knowing all of these people and wanting to actually make deeper connections.
“There was no real outlet for those who feel isolated or didn’t want to engage in this networking mentality,” said Alexander-Short. “We felt like we needed some type of alternative for students.”
There are many great and noble clubs on Santa Clara’s campus, but it appears there is no club that is broad enough to accommodate for what is wrong and what we, as students, would like to do. Layton and Alexander-Short find that focusing on and nurturing the self is important to “have the strength to act.”
Together Against the Grain is highly based on reflection for this very purpose.
“People discover or face certain ideas or injustices or insecurities through reflection,” said Layton. “New things come up during reflection and discussion, especially within a community of people who are sharing the same ideas.”
When asked about where Together Against the Grain hopes to be in the coming weeks, Alexander-Short stressed the idea of building the community of students and bringing in underclassmen who may seek a place that can “support alternative paths”.
“It’s not necessarily about going out and doing things, but more about cultivating everyone’s conviction, getting rid of fear and building hope,” said Layton. “We want people who engage that hope aspect, thinking things can change.”
Together Against the Grain meets on Thursdays at 8:30 in the Multi-Faith Sanctuary of the St. Joseph building.