February 2021 Issue

Humans of Campus Life Series

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Garrett Meggs, Director of Student Life in First College 


person sitting at at table with a coffee mug in their hand.

Which identities are you most proud of? 

I know we often think about demographics when reflecting on identity, but it’s so much more than that. Our identities are about belonging and how we see ourselves in the world. I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a first-generation college student. But this year, I have spent a lot of time thinking about myself as a friend. My friends are my family, and this year I have been supported and loved by them in new ways. This year’s been difficult at times, but it has taught me how to present without being together, and I am immensely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to strengthen my friendships.  

What kind of household/family did you grow up in and how did this impact your identities? 

I grew up mostly living with my mom and sister. But I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. I have a large extended family with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins, but I never felt more at home than when I was with my grandparents. They taught me how to drive, how to cook, how to knit, and my grandmothers passed on to me their love of The Golden Girls. They showed me what it meant to care for others and how to live in community. More than anyone else, they shaped me.  

My mom and I butted heads a lot when I was younger. We are strikingly similar in some ways yet very different in others. She worked hard to make ends meet for our family, sometimes working nights or multiple jobs while I was in school. I felt shame about that growing up, but I look back now and I see my mom’s strength. She is headstrong and stubborn, but she is also warm and open. She never judges anyone, and has always reminded me “you don’t know what other people are going through.” She was the first person who knew I was gay, and I am thankful every day that she taught me to love and embrace that.

How do these identities impact you and your work at Princeton? 

Our students are remarkable. They are passionate, smart, and creative. But more than that, I am impressed by their perspective and their ability to care for one another. In some ways, they see things more clearly than previous generations, and because of that they aren’t afraid to honestly reflect on things and to imagine a better world that’s more just and equitable. 

Reflecting on your identities and taking into account what you learned from the Campus Life diversity and anti-racism training, how has your understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion shifted/changed? 

I think the trainings were really helpful, but even more important have been the honest conversations with friends, colleagues, and students. My assumptions about what it means to be antiracist have been challenged this year, and I realize that I have so much unlearning left to do. Nearly every experience in my life has been shaped by whiteness, from the images of God I saw in church growing up, to my ideas about what it means to be successful. Unlearning and accountability are sometimes painful, but they are necessary. I have also learned that perfectionism is antithetical to engaging in antiracism work. There will always be more work to do. We have to keep learning and keep moving.

In closing, we invite you to share a self-reflection that captures how the recent events around racial injustice have had an impact on the work that you do in your role with Campus Life. 

Rachel Cargle shared a post last summer which stated, “Antiracism is not a self-improvement exercise for white people.” In our good faith efforts to address systemic racism in our work, I am reminded to reflect on this important distinction. Antiracism is about liberation, justice, equity, safety, and repairing harm. Focusing on white people “getting it right” is just another way of us centering whiteness.

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