There is prejudice and then there is self-serving ignorance. As college students we are often encouraged to express ourselves and challenge authority as active members of society and as part of our education. However, recently the line between appropriate advocacy and foolish self-righteousness has been blurred.
Six months ago, feelings of hope, change, and optimism saturated the political climate. The time arrived, pundits proclaimed, for a moment in America to emerge. Despite the invariably shrinking economy, or the suffocating cloud of pollution in Washington D.C. that paralyzed progress and created cynics of an entire generation, President Barack Obama’s inauguration illustrated an end to gridlock and discord, a beginning to an expansive program to redeem America as a governed country of the people, by the people, for the people. The nation assumed that President Obama would lead us in reaching progressive goals in economics, energy, health care, and the war. Unfortunately, our assumption was wrong. Over the next two weeks, we will discover how President Obama erred strategically in allowing Congress to drive much of his agenda in two issues: the economy and health care.
As seniors, we feel a duty to pass on our wisdom. Not that we’re wise; but we have been here the longest and earned our bragging rights. There are still many things we don’t understand about Carleton, but here are some things we do know
Men of Color congregated at a rural retreat center this weekend for the annual MOC Retreat. The second night of the retreat, I traded a reasonable bedtime for late-night hours with the guys. As debates, conversations and frequent laughter carried us well past midnight, my wonder and gratitude grew more than I could have anticipated. Only the day before, some of us were first encountering each other, polite but cautious. By Saturday night politeness had given way to respect, and caution to connection.
Not every generation can say that they saw the greatest of all time. Our generation has not seen the greatest baseball or football players of all time and has only seen the twilight of the greatest hockey and basketball player’s careers. However, we are privileged enough to be able to watch the greatest golfer who has ever lived. As the PGA Tour season comes to a close this weekend and Tiger Woods wraps up another impressive season, we should take a step back and appreciate the greatness of Tiger.
Monday afternoon, squeezed into the sweaty, bubble-slimed chapel, the Carleton community began the year with a very interesting, and very important convocation. Was the genius-foodie-farmer Gary Nabhan a strange choice to ring in the new year? Perhaps. But assuming that the choice was not just arbitrary, allow me to further consider the significance of this beginning to our year.
To remind us that disposable income is the result of hard work, most of us remember adults saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Surprisingly, though, I can’t think of a maxim for the opposite effect: incompetence, and lack of work, makes hard earned money disappear. I’ve got one. When I’m a parent, and my children lazily baulk at their responsibilities, I’ll remind them that “money melts on Texas military airfields.” Admittedly, it’s not very catchy, but it’s appropriate nonetheless. I’ll explain.
Carleton has welcomed many laudable additions this year, including an Upper Sayles filled with red paint and black leather couches, two new dorms for lucky younger students, and dual-boot computers that have calmed the violent Mac-vs-PC debate. Yet one newcomer towers above the rest: the gourmet cupcake. Anyone who has passed by the Snack Bar case this year and been startled by garish blobs of frosting knows what I’m talking about. They’re at once repulsive and alluring; in fact, they’re practically hypnotic.
It remains our goal and desire to reinstate Carleton’s MPIRG chapter and MPIRG fee at some point in the next few years. For the time being, we will continue to be an energetic and enthusiastic part of Carleton’s activist community, and we look forward to building new productive connections with the many students on our campus working actively towards a better world.
The 2007 Senior Survey asked students if the Writing Portfolio was useful based on a 5-point scale. Because of a coding error in the survey, the results were essentially flopped (1 represented “strongly agree” instead of “strongly disagree,” etc.). After adjusting for this error, only 27% of seniors rated the experience as useful. While this discovery may not surprise you, it is unnerving to think that evaluations of the Writing Portfolio have been influenced by faulty data. Further, this error went unnoticed for over a year.
I am not an MPIRG staff member, but a recent graduate from a small liberal arts college in greater Minnesota who has been angry at the organization before. I understand where some of these Vote No folks are coming from. I do. But instead of building something in MPIRG’s place, I give you a different challenge, if y’all are up to it: use MPIRG as a vehicle to extend your power and to coordinate with students on other campuses. It is obvious that students at Carleton are passionate organizers of issues they care about, so correct MPIRG’s problems and lead a broad-based statewide student movement. I reiterate, if something is broken, you shouldn’t throw it away... especially if other folks, the current Carleton MPIRG members, want to fix it.
Last week Jacob Schack took Carleton’s support of the National Merit Scholarship to task as part of an ongoing series of articles about Carleton’s budget priorities. He argues that the scholarship is a waste of money, and that it does nothing to improve the quality of students who come here because it unfairly favors privileged students who can afford expensive prep courses. I am a low-income student and the National Merit Scholarship was a major component of making Carleton affordable for me. I never took any prep courses. I scored well on the PSAT because I was the sort of person who should be going to Carleton.