Mandatory social events are well-intentioned but suck
This past week, I moved from living amidst the whims and naiveté of youth to the great frontier of adulthood: entering college. I am ready to live on my own, make vital life decisions with little or no advice from my elders and face both academic and personal trials and tribulations. But before I begin, I have to put on my Superman costume. We’re having s’mores and ice-breaker activities outside. I think there might be pizza.
Making friends in college consists of a few simple actions. You begin by walking to class, riding the bus or sitting in a dormitory lounge — any everyday commute or occurrence in which you encounter other university students. In any of these circumstances, there is a high chance that you will be approached and asked for three criteria: your name, your major and your place of residence. And that’s it. Congratulations, you and a random EE-rider are now best friends. Feel free to Instagram a selfie or two with your new pal, and don’t be afraid to add a #FriendsForLife caption to go along with it.
So if making friends at school is really this easy, why are first-years subjected to “mandatory” (as if I’m going to get detention if I don’t attend) banner contests and floor hang-out sessions? Busch Superheroes? Really? And don’t forget about the open-door policy recommendation — it doesn’t matter how much studying you need to get done, doors should be open so the whole hall can come in and relax. Living on your own and taking responsibility for getting to class sounds really glamorous, but now that I’ve arrived at Rutgers, I feel as though I’ve been shunted back to junior high.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not an antisocial person. I’m entirely thrilled meeting new people and the friends I’ve made. What I am not excited about is being told what to do and what my priorities should be — especially when I’m told that my future shouldn’t be number one. When socializing is placed on such a high rung of the ladder of priorities, it’s no wonder that other countries are hurtling past the United States in academic competitiveness and scientific advancement. While we encourage students to party first and study later, kids in Japanese pre-schools are spending every waking moment memorizing the first 3,800 digits of Pi.
My criticism is not entirely one of the University. After talking to close friends at neighboring schools, it’s clear to me that there is a nationwide abundance of photos on doors of sea creatures with residents’ names written on them and a serious lack of the fundamental ideas that our nation’s educational institutions were based on.
The fun-fests of babying that ensue may end as the college years progress, but it’s a distinct possibility that they’re creating unhealthy attitudes that are dampening the potential of American posterity. In the few seconds per day that I have to return to my residence hall, it seems like I always see the same group of people — this group being my entire building — playing pool in the lounge or blasting music in their dorm rooms. I can’t help but wonder if these students attend class at all. As I spend a bus ride commuting between my dorm on Busch campus and my classes on College Avenue, I overhear juniors and seniors discussing how excited they are for their Theater Appreciation’s field trip to the city — not because they want to attend a play, but because their “Easy-A” class just got a little easier.
To me, it’s no wonder that the universities across the globe that do recognize the ideas that truly need to be implemented are rising in the ranks of academia faster than many can catch up. The U.S. still leads the ranks of nations in most aspects, but this superiority may be slipping away. There was a time when an applicant with a Bachelor’s Degree was a rarity and a huge asset to a company, but we all know that this is no longer the case. It could be that people are getting smarter, or it could be quite the opposite. Perhaps it’s time to reinvent the ideas and behaviors that are instilled in the students of our universities and encourage some real maturity and independence, before the qualities that provide our nation’s youth with the ability to contribute to a productive workforce are lost.
Shannon Ray is a first-year student in the School of Arts and Sciences.