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The Point: Get over yourself, Brandeis

By web

Section: Opinions

November 30, 2007

College students really, really love themselves. Arrogance, in various forms, seems to be the defining characteristic of many of my peers here at Brandeis. It’s everywhere: from the morons who brag about their S.A.T. scores to the a capella groups who re-arrange “Seasons of Love” to include arduously wacky inside jokes about their senior members. Sometimes it’s harmless—like the time I accidentally opened the Photobooth application on my friend’s McIntosh and found hundreds of pictures she’d taken of herself (I mean, it kind of reminded me of the part in The Shining when Shelley Duvall realizes her husband’s “novel” is just the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” written over and over, but I recognized that the behavior was basically harmless).

However, sometimes, the arrogance of young, educated people proves truly harmful. Let’s say, for example, that a student thinks she has the moral authority to attack a professor for using racial slurs in the context of discussing racism and for—gasp!—speaking knowingly about marijuana. And let’s also say that this professor was unpopular with the administration because of his views on Israel and history of disputes about his salary. That could lead to a real witch-hunt, couldn’t it? Hypothetically, it could have some serious repercussions on the level of trust and discourse on campus. If it really happened, of course.

I know that I’m as guilty as everyone else is of narcissism—this past weekend I paid thirty dollars to get a tee-shirt with my last name and a majestic lion printed on it. Heck, just writing this column is arrogant in a way—it assumes you care about what I think. But I think I have some insight as to why we’re like this (plus my tee-shirt is really funny), so I’m willing to leave myself out of the equation for a while.

So don’t get mad at me for sharing this theory: students at Brandeis are generally very smart. They are also, generally, the sort of people who were ostracized in high school (I think everyone’s tired of hearing about “Brandeis Awkward”). These students were once victims, but then they got high S.A.T. scores and were able to break out of the environment that once victimized them, and their logic is that the nature of this escape grants them to the freedom to do whatever they want.

But that’s not true. You can’t do whatever you want just because you’re smart and go to an expensive private university, just like you can’t do whatever you want just because you play on a football team or have an expensive velour sweatsuit. I certainly sympathize with the feeling of alienation so many Brandeis students seem to be struggling to overcome (I am no former popular girl, I assure you), but being uncool doesn’t give you special privileges. You aren’t entitled to anything because you got through your adolescence without shooting anyone. You don’t deserve to pat yourself on the back because you were the minority in the real world and now you’re the majority in the “Brandeis Bubble.” As my momma would say, if you keep acting like a jerk, everyone’s gonna treat you like a jerk. And if you’ll excuse me, I have a mirror to stare into.

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