To me, the Occupy the Fish Pond demonstration on Wednesday struck a deep nerve. I was involved (a little bit) in the inception of the idea to try and demonstrate a little more outrage to our fellow students concerning the whole oil-fish fiasco. During some casual conversations with some of my friends (mostly my wife and Stuart Enkey) I became increasingly more disappointed with what I saw as a growing apathy for fulfilling campus life. I began noticing less and less involvement in student driven activities on campus, and it was really starting to worry me.

I certainly considered that maybe I was simply tricking myself because I live off campus, or because I am married; maybe I was simply out of the loop. Although I recognized that all of those things may have contributed to my perception of student life, I nevertheless had a burning for a more fulfilling student experience.

Then the fish died.

When I first heard that someone had put motor oil into the fish pond, I was livid. Not only was I upset because someone killed innocent fish, but also because this was the second time in the two years since I have been home from my mission that this has happened. I knew that this must upset the school’s administration (particularly because they have to pay to replace the fish and clean the pond, and that’s not cheap), but I wanted it to upset the students more. This was our fishpond, I thought. It sits quietly in the center of our humble courtyard, harming no one, delightfully adding to the quaint atmosphere that makes our campus so beautiful. I felt that an attack on the fish was a direct attack on everything I hold dear about Southern Virginia. Or at least that’s how it all played out in my mind.

Then something interesting happened; some students got together at a meeting for The Accolade News and decided they wanted to “occupy the fishpond.” Even though our reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement was, to a degree, a gimmick, we used it to try and draw awareness something we thought was important to know, and it worked. We got over 200 signatures on our petition to raise awareness and potentially have a surveillance camera put in place to monitor the pond. That’s ¼ of the student population. People were taking pictures, sharing stories about why they loved the fish, and telling us where to call to get more fish donated. As I watched all of this unfold, I realized more than ever that people on this campus really do want to be involved. The only trick is figuring out what to be involved in.

That is one of the main reasons Stuart and I started The Accolade; we wanted to help promote more student driven involvement in campus activity, discussion, and art. The sports teams have the Superfans to help promote their games and encourage support, but what about all the other clubs? What about the clubs that don’t exist yet, but are (at least in my opinion) vital to a Liberal Arts atmosphere, such as a debate team, or poetry club? They need just as much student support as the soccer players do. So to me the fish came to symbolize something else; they symbolize what’s unique about Southern Virginia, what’s beautiful. I’ve got 1 year and ½ left, and the last thing I want to do is leave here without contributing something. And that’s why I occupied the fish pond.

by John C. Feinauer

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