Death threats, explosive media coverage, threats of lawsuits. The generational conflict had escalated again—this time to unprecedented levels. Communities were polarized. On one side was the agricultural community and on the other, lakeshore residents. The issue? Water quality in Lake Huron. Accusations had always been that farmers, with their manure spreading, polluted the waterways feeding into the lake, causing high levels of bacteria leading to increased beach closures.
Today, in higher education, we speak of the value of “community service,” “continuing education,” “building community by growing engaged constituencies” and “life-long learning from cradle to grave.” Some schools, including Grebel, even build this noble idea of engaged community education into their very identity. Our identity as a Mennonite college is imbued with strong ties to the region of Waterloo, the church, and relief agencies around the world.
As a new enterprise for this academic year, artist-in-residence, I Dewa Suparta, along with Grebel music professor Maisie Sum, started the Grebel Community Gamelan. Comprising 11 community members in its inaugural year, the vision for this growing ensemble is to participate in multiple forms of outreach activities including workshops, church visits, conferences, and concerts off-campus.
On a gorgeous spring day in April, President Susan Schultz Huxman welcomed Grebel’s graduating students to the 2016 Convocation ceremony. Making up a group of almost 700 people, friends, family, faculty, staff, donors, and board members, the Grebel community marked the hard work of undergraduate and graduate students who had lived in residence or participated in Grebel’s programs of Music, Peace and Conflict Studies, Mennonite Studies, and Theological Studies.