In our atomized, individualistic society, genuine community is a much sought-after ideal. As a real experience, however, it presents many interesting, and sometimes difficult, challenges. A semester at Lincoln constitutes a daily laboratory for taking up and responding to those challenges.
Students often come to the OE expressing a desire to experience genuine community and many assume it will happen automatically when they arrive at the OE. Those of us who have lived here year-round for more than three decades know the real challenges that community life presents. For our semester together, we try to talk honestly about struggles and work together in an experiment of community building.
Cabin life requires group planning for meals, grocery shopping, and cabin cleaning. By sharing a room, starting the daily woodstove fire, and participating in small group discussions with others, students learn that building a community is a constant process. Of course, deep and lasting relationships develop in this context, but living so closely also entails handling conflict. We strive to honor our differences and learn from one another. Our hope is that by semester’s end, students will be enabled to engage in community building wherever they find themselves after their OE experience.
The OE welcomes pilgrims in all spiritual traditions, as well as those who identify with none at all, and offers each a space in the conversation. It also schedules religious activities for those who are interested in participating. Non-participation is a respected option.
Morning classes begin with a contemplative prelude comprised of a short poem or reading followed by a minute of silence.
On Sunday mornings, we drive interested students to Ashland to attend local churches or religious services. At Lincoln, a small church meets in the chapel. Its services are informal and contemplative, and students are warmly welcomed.
And each Sunday evening, faculty host an optional vespers service that features short readings, singing, and prayer.
Move out of the Current
The Oregon Extension offers you a semester “out of the mainstream”—a temporary retreat from the rush and the noise, the technologically-driven interruptions and consumerist distractions, that comprise the background texture of life.
One of the most effective means toward creating a refreshingly alternative atmosphere has been our policy of limiting the use of cell phones for students and faculty alike. We ask that you ‘check’ your cell phone with us when you arrive. We store your cell phone safely, and return it to you for use during our week-end town trips and during our trip to San Francisco. Public phones and email are available for your use while you are on campus, and the OE has limited web access for necessary functions like college registration, travel reservations, or required research. You are welcome to take your laptop into Ashland on weekends, where you’ll find free access to high-speed internet connections.
We understand that the cell phone has become a virtual appendage, so it may be difficult to imagine living without it. We can report to you that at the end of each semester, our students – even those who at first hesitated to apply to the OE because they couldn’t imagine being without a cell phone – endorse this policy enthusiastically. They say it is the single most important factor in bringing a quieter spirit and a more satisfying academic focus to their lives. As they prepare to leave, at semester’s end, some express regret that they must return to a world where unlimited cell phone use is virtually unavoidable.
In the same spirit of freeing ourselves from our dependency on our ‘gear’, we ask our students to leave TVs, DVD players, and music systems without earphones at home as well. During the week, students are free to use earphones for music listening, so as to leave others in the vicinity undisturbed. We request that students use personal computers for DVDs or publicly audible music only on the weekends.
We ask students to leave their automobiles home as well. Regular shuttle trips take students down the mountain to Ashland, especially on weekends, for theater, coffee shops, recreation, shopping, and religious services. We transport students for medical appointments and other necessary business. We provide transportation, at the beginning and end of the semester, to and from airports and bus or train stations, and on adventures to San Francisco, the Oregon Coast, and to backpacking sites.
We realize that we are asking students temporarily to relinquish items that seem necessary to life itself. We believe you will come to appreciate how such commitments contribute to the quality of your experience—intellectual, social and spiritual—at the Oregon Extension.
While many off-campus programs offer a passport for international travel and exposure to centers of world culture, the Oregon Extension invites you to find your place in a mountain community “out of the mainstream.” It is not a better program than the rest, but one that meets different needs. In a momentary break from the frenzied pace of our culture, perhaps we will see our lives, our relationships, our faith, and the life of the world just a bit more clearly.
Read a full description of the OE’s “Move out of the Current” perspective.
Community Expectations Regarding Substance Use
On its campus, the OE seriously maintains an alcohol-free, drug-free environment. For us, “out of the mainstream” includes an honest attempt to truly meet each other and live out our semester together in a context of trust, sobriety and clarity. So, we welcome you to join us if drugs and alcohol are not a necessary part of your daily life. If you have struggled with addiction, and have openly embraced the path to recovery, we will gladly assist your participation in one of the many NA or AA meetings in Ashland.
Read a full description of the OE’s Community Expectations Regarding Substance Use (PDF)
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