“Failure is OK” is the message that a group of students in Dr. Elizabeth Petrino’s American Social Protest Literature course want to spread throughout the university-wide community, especially during finals week.

In this class, each group is asked to create their own action project and spread the message of their project throughout the campus.

According to Petrino, who has been teaching this class since 2010, these projects have been “getting more interesting each year.”

Junior Julian Ashong, one of the members of the group responsible for the “Failure is OK” campaign, commented, “Our goal is to say that failure isn’t the end of the world. There are many students that fail, and the failure deters them from their goals. Our mission is to say that the greatest people fail. You have to try again and again to be the best physicist or basketball player.”

Ashong went on to discuss famous people who have failed at some point in their lives, such as Albert Einstein and Michael Jordan. These individuals, who were very successful in life, did not let occasional failures get them down. This is the message of the “Failure is OK” campaign.

“Failure is a necessary step toward becoming more aware and more critical in your abilities,” commented Petrino. “In fact, failing in my own life was a necessary step to success. It was in failing that I became more aware of what I needed to do differently.”

Sophomore Spencer Garland, another member of the group, commented, “This campaign is important to me because it’s tough to see people fail a test or any other task and then give up on themselves. We want to make it known on campus that if you fail it’s not the end for that class, there’s the opportunity to meet with your professor and receive help from tutors as well.”

“Our goal is not to say ‘Don’t study for your exams,’” Ashong continued. “It is to say, ‘You should study, but if it doesn’t work out well, keep trying to attain your goals.’ There are faculty members and friends who will tell you to give up if you fail, but every single successful person in history has had someone tell them that.”

The campaign is aiming to get signatures from professors and from the President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. in support of these ideals in an attempt to show students that failure is OK and allow them to retake tests if they do not do well on them.

“I think it would be interesting for them to talk to the president about failure,” Petrino added, “and make it out to be not something to be ashamed about, but a stepping stone to success.”

Along with reaching out to professors and Father von Arx, this group is also spreading positive messages in the form of quotes around the campus, handing out pamphlets to students who may be struggling and having a suggestion box for students to contribute their own ideas about how to move past failures.

Some of the quotes in these suggestion box are cheerful pick-me-ups, such as “The road in life is paved in mistakes. It’s those who learn from them who go farther,” “Never let a stumble in a road be the end of a journey” and “Just keep swimming.”

The main goal of this campaign, along with spreading messages of positivity to struggling students, is to open the minds of professors and to have their support for encouraging students, rather than discouraging them.

“We want professors to give students the opportunity to retake tests if they do not do well the first time,” explained Ashong. “An analogy I like to use is if you fall off the bicycle, you have to get back on and try again. For some of us, that is how we learn.”

Petrino seemed to agree with this, stating, “Anybody who doesn’t admit that they’ve failed at some point is probably not being reflective, or acknowledging the way they have depended on others in order to improve.”

Sophomore Kacper Laska, another member of the group, added, “I believe that failure is something that everyone has to go through to succeed. It is a way to find your limits and get out of your comfort zone.”

Ashong also added, “The way the education system is set up is to help students do well in the short term. It is more important to focus on long term success … we want the school to have a liberal education, rather than a restrictive one.”

Ashong and his group believe that the way the liberal arts education is set up is, in fact, not very liberal at all. Rather than the system forcing students to take certain classes, it should, this group believes, allow for more opportunities to be open to students.

Ashong stated, “It takes failure to become successful.”

“I’m proud that the students were willing to take on this topic,” said Petrino, “since our society tends to celebrate high achievers. We need to acknowledge that success requires a lot of missteps along the way.”

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