It’s that time of year again: my social media feeds have officially exploded with photos of excited Cobbers flashing their new, shiny class rings. It is a day of celebration of Concordia pride for both current students receiving their rings and for alumni who get to glance down at their own rings and reminisce about the glory days on campus. Don’t get me wrong—Cobber rings are a fun tradition. I wear my own ring with pride every single day, and it has served as a conversation starter with fellow alumni on more than one occasion. I’m proud to wear a piece of jewelry representing an institution I love, and I enjoy the friendly banter that ensues with students who attended rival colleges once they notice the flash of maroon and gold on my right ring finger. The ring represents tradition, community, and a dedication to the breadth and depth of a Concordia education. However, on this Ring Day, I would like to offer a friendly reminder: This ring also symbolizes an incredible amount of privilege.
I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we’ve earned this ring, that the fact that we’ve put in hours and hours of our lives into studying and probably put a nearly equal number of hours over-dedicating ourselves to a whole host of extracurricular activities requires a reward. I think it is easy to think that once we have this ring on our finger we are “true Cobbers,” that we have been initiated into the elite class of students and alumni who have earned the right to this Cobber identity. Trust me, I know how challenging a Concordia education can be. I know the sleep deprivation that comes with it. I get the unrealistic expectations often placed upon Concordia students in terms of extra-curricular involvement. It’s a lot. And as a student (or as an alum), your achievements should be celebrated.
But the reality is, a Concordia education is a remarkable privilege in and of itself. To be able to take four years of our lives and devote them to studying, especially at a private liberal arts college, is something the majority of the world’s population only dreams of. And then to be able to have resources to purchase a (let’s be honest—really expensive) class ring on top of that is actually kind of crazy.
So, why do I bring this up on a day of ring-filled celebration? I’m not trying to be a total downer, I promise. I’m also not trying to make you feel guilty. Let me say again that I too have a Cobber ring that hardly ever leaves my finger. Three years ago today (or whenever my own ring day was), I too was completely caught up in the hype, ceremoniously opening my own ring box with my friends, and posing for a ridiculous number of photos. If I could go back in time, I doubt I would do anything differently. So, I write this not to bring a sense of shame upon all of us ring-wearing Concordia students and alum, but to gently remind ourselves of our own privilege. I think we all need to be careful with our assumptions about Cobber rings, on this day in particular. The reality is not everyone has this same level of privilege, and Cobber rings are simply not a realistic part of a Concordia education for all students. It is never fun to be the odd one out; in fact, it can be straight up humiliating. I can only imagine how it feels to watch your friends join in a community-wide celebration to which you are simply not invited.
Celebrate your education. Celebrate your Concordia community. Celebrate the awesome things you are going to do in this world. But in the process be careful to notice those who are not invited to this particular party. Take note of your own privilege, and recognize that you most likely did not get here alone. And a note to non-Cobber ring wearing Concordia students: You still matter. You are still a valued part of this community. A ring, or lack thereof, does not define you. I believe that Concordia’s mission and values are worth celebrating—but it’s better if we can all celebrate them (and live them) together.