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University norms limit intellectual discourse and beneficial life experience

University norms limit intellectual discourse and beneficial life experience

By Matthew Kowalyk

Section: Opinions

March 11, 2016

Many of the adults I’ve met in my life have discussed the rather unruly things they’ve done in college in frats, sororities and what have you that they jokingly refer to and never really reveal the details. Of course, there is a probably a decent amount of exaggeration in how controversial or daring our elders’ escapades in college were in reality, but when I think about those stories in comparison to what takes place on campus today, I wonder if we’ll ever have those stories for our children. The fact that adults were allowed to experiment and make mistakes without those mistakes following them throughout their adult life is much different than our experience today. Now with social media and cellphones, it is much harder for us to screw up and have our reputations remain intact. Some companies do deep background checks of prospective employees while others do not, but regardless, this notion of having every mistake discoverable for the rest of our lives is something that haunts every aspect of campus life.

Yes, we are forced to make more responsible decisions, but at the same time, we never learn how to be wrong. As a side effect to the adoption of other social technology, it’s possible to idolize other people’s lives in poisonous ways, from Ryan Gosling to the socialite down the hall. This isn’t new, but what this produces during a time in our lives where we are supposed to be free to define ourselves and work out our personal kinks is an attitude with which we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes, or be genuine. People have been feeling this since colleges have existed, but in this age it has a greater effect with the ability to obtain loads of information rapidly.

This is accompanied by watching movies and videos online about experiences at college, creating a dual effect on a group of young people that has a mostly inertial character. These elements can create a dangerous, false sense of reality; it can make some students feel disappointed about the excitement they believe they have a right to at college, while striking others in a way that makes them believe that they are living a manufactured reality. We are taught to contain ourselves rather and express ourselves in ways dictated by established groups and rules of communication that stifle creativity and growth. This could be due in part to the preconditioning of parents and a growing preference to make college safer, but in part due to our institution giving in. When you look at articles in the campus papers over the past few years, there were times when students hosted bigger events, we had more opinions on campus, and it seemed that there was more freedom in discourse and in spirit.

Furthermore, there are problems with mass insecurity, evidenced, for example, when people watch Disney movies over and over again in groups. Nostalgia is not bad, and we all feel it, especially in an age that fosters insecurity among our whole generation for real reasons. However, when it is all people talk about, and all that we are interested in, it becomes regressive. Look well upon the past, but time proceeds. We may be developing in a fast-paced, technology-enhanced environment that makes our identities more easily compromised, but there seems to be very little pushback. Our school isn’t doing anything to counter our tendencies in many real ways, but maybe our preconditioning wouldn’t allow for it. Restricting us only makes those things that are restricted forbidden fruits. We need encouragement and a dose of reality, while consistency in leadership to provide us with an example. Responses to problems in the community seem to always be either too invasive or not involved enough, as we’ve seen over the past few years. This could be the constantly dissatisfied student body warping the story of the administration, but the administration should know how to effectively placate their students’ concerns and deal with their problems.

In the end, we have a school that cushions its students, not opening their minds but keeping them closed, because that’s easier to deal with. Speakers shouldn’t be censored, student events should be regulated, not banned, and the administration should deal with problems in a way that is more consistent. Otherwise, we are only working to not build up the tolerance of students mental fortitudes, but allowing them to buy into the commercialized idea that life should be this way. When tragedy occurs outside of the university, when there are opinions and people you cannot deal with yourself present themselves, there will be no university to protect you or censor those around you. Our justice system in this country still has yet to catch up with the pace of social change, and until it does, the fortitude to put up with life has to come from the individual. A larger, overarching force cannot always solve life’s problems.

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