Reflections on Sean Bonner: Creating a Stronger Community

President Adam Weinberg has often emphasized that relationships run deep at Denison, and that our particular community is a special one for that very reason. In the days since Sean Bonner ‘20’s untimely death, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on just what it means to be a part of the Denison community and, furthermore, whether we as Denisonians live up to the standard of community Weinberg has described.

Over the last several days, I have seen a tremendous outpouring of support, care, and community unseen since the death of Wendell Jackson ‘17 over three years ago. Denison students and faculty truly know how to come together wielding unconditional love, compassion, and empathy for one another like no other campus.

I can’t help but think, however, that demonstrations of community and togetherness of this scope are rare, and occur primarily at the hands of a loss.

In reality, Denison, in many ways, is a small but segregated campus. Even if we as students have not directly spoken of it, there still remains an unspoken acknowledgment of it. The same groups of people go to the same types of campus events. The parties students are likely to attend depend in part on personal preferences, but also on previous experiences where, sometimes, students have been shut out of a party because of some aspect of their identity. Hate crimes on campus increased in the months following the 2016 Presidential Election, and many people still don’t feel safe on campus.

In recent weeks, Denison students have trashed the outside of their residence halls as well as some of the tables at Slayter, demonstrating no regard for our community, nor for the staff who work so hard preserve and maintain it.

As students and organization leaders, we often become so mired in the responsibilities of day-to-day life that we forget to check in on ourselves and with each other. Only when it is too late do we feel compelled to urge others to get help when they need it.

I never knew Sean personally. We never ran in the same friendship circles. But his struggle has resonated with me in unexpected ways as I battle with my own issues of depression and anxiety. I can never begin to understand what Sean’s particular emotional needs were. I can, however, remember times where I, too, experienced dangerously low points, and that, had I not asked for help, my mind would have taken me to some undesirable new depths.

Sean’s struggle has reminded me that I am not alone on campus, even when it often feels that way. His death has taught me–and I hope many of us–the importance of slowing down, self-care, and caring for others.

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