Torrey: Cult or Community?

Havilah Steinman calls for the integration of the Torrey and Biola communities.

Havilah Steinman, Writer

It’s about a month into the semester, and we all have people to chill with and people we choose to avoid. That is the nature of intermingling communities within the campus. One of the more distinct communities within Biola is the Torrey Honors Institute. You’ve likely heard about it, the honors program within Biola, or seen that mysterious looking office in Sutherland. Whatever the case, almost every student at Biola is either in Torrey, knows someone in Torrey, or has preconceived notions about Torrey. But we’re all a part of the same community at Biola University.

A community within a community

The Torrey Honors Institute is a tight-knit community within the greater community of Biola University. Torrey students and typical Biola students are both just college students, wired for different processes of learning.

Some have said Torrey students seem pretentious simply because of the separation of the program from the rest of Biola. The separation breeds mystery, which almost automatically breeds dislike. When there is so much mystery surrounding a program it is easy to take one negative experience and base an entire opinion on that encounter.

Integrating the Torrey and Biola communities

One particular friend walked into the Student Union Building late one night only to realize that it had been taken over completely by Torrey students feverishly writing an assignment due the next day. It is understandable that one would feel out of place to find that they was no longer room for them in a space that they had used so often before. That confusion could turn into hurt, and inevitably the next reaction would be to blame the people who had caused them to feel that way.

This entire problem could be avoided if Torrey and Biola were integrated in a more tangible way. The Torrey students could simply be more aware of the fact that everyone else needs to use the SUB as well. The students of the greater Biola community, in turn, could dialogue with the students about why they are there and take the time to understand. It’s a give and take scenario.

Making an effort to build relationships

Others I talked to expounded upon their familial friendships within the Torrey Honors Institute. Torrey students connect on many different levels simply because of the structure of the program. They connect intellectually, by going through many great works of literature, spiritually, because the entire Bible requirement is contained within the curriculum, and emotionally, by being stuck in a room together for six to nine hours per week for years. But the close-knit quality of friendship within Torrey groups does not cause students to have lots of friends outside of Torrey as well. In fact, the unique mission of the program should foster relationships in general, not just those within the program.

I do believe my dearly loved program has seemingly cult-ish tendencies. There are people who choose not to partake in the greater part of the Biola community because they truly believe Torrey can provide everything they need to grow up. Sadly, they truly miss the entire point of what it is to learn and grow in a communal way by segregating themselves. But this tendency is just another call to living in a united community, and I know that we are dedicated to making that a tangible reality. I love the people I’ve been blessed with in the Torrey Honors Institute, because they truly are my second family. Most of my friends are Torrey students, but that’s not a malicious or purposeful choice on my part. It’s because those are the people God has chosen to bless me with right now. I am still deeply conscious of the greater Biola community, and love what our university stands for as a whole.

A Torrey student is only a stereotypical Torrey student if he is singularly friends with those who are like-minded. But that same student becomes a leader with influence if he is able to relate and interact with others in genuine love and acceptance who share little to none of his same interests. When this occurs, it will truly cease to be Biola and the Torrey Honors Institute. It will become Biola with the Torrey Honors Institute. And quite honestly, our influence and sustainability as a program depends on that integration.

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