Campus life malaise

Ben Levine

There is a growing malaise that permeates campus life that was not present in years past. It’s as if there’s always someone behind you, reminding, “Hey, this isn’t the real world. Yes, you’re an ‘adult,’ but just remember that you’re an adult on our terms. Social life is a privilege. Academics are the purpose.”
It is true that academics are the reason that most people come to a university. I know that I would have never considered Lawrence if I wasn’t sure that I would receive a top-notch academic experience. And, as a senior, I know that I have had an academic experience that has been fulfilling in a way that I couldn’t have imagined as I walked across the stage at my high school graduation.
But as the class of 2011 takes its final lap, there seems to be something missing from Lawrence that I can’t quite put my thumb on. I know that those of us who entered Lawrence in 2007 see a much different campus than when we first began our foray into the world of liberal arts.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. No longer do we have to deal with endless construction, the woes of Downer, or those bright orange hockey sticks outside of Wriston. We now have an all-access pass to the wonderful world of conference rooms, corner stores and bagel sandwiches made to order. And I’ll be damned if those sandwiches aren’t delicious.
Despite all of these new things, there still persists a sense of regression. We’ve been given all of this awesome stuff, and yet it lacks a feeling of history or purpose.
The campus center is indeed central in the sense that it contains services that are essential to the daily life of students. Mail? Food? Meetings? It’s all there. And while I do appreciate the convenience and aesthetics of the Warch, I ultimately have no real feelings for the place. A visit to the Warch is about as compelling as a visit to the bank. You enter with an agenda and leave about 50 percent satisfied.
This frustration has only been compounded by the increased enforcement of university policy regarding social gatherings in formal group houses. In years past, there always seemed to be an air of respect between the administration and the leaders of groups given the privilege to live in a house together.
Students who lived in houses could have gatherings and expect security and administration to be both trusting and understanding. Now, security diligently records any infractions and administration promptly follows up, noting, “This behavior needs to be changed.”
The administration no longer understands how sacred the spaces of the formal group houses are. They do not realize that houses provide students with distinct sets of dynamics and culture that are fundamental to true campus life. It seems that they no longer feel that students are truly capable of governing their own living spaces.
Sure, common rooms in houses are considered “public areas,” but the administration should acknowledge that these areas are under the control of groups who, in addition to all of the activities and events they provide, can handle having some beer in their living room without waiting three days for approval.
Lawrence has always been a place of both academic and personal enrichment. I do understand that personal enrichment constitutes much more than a good house party, but I cannot downplay what a positive experience many of the vibrant, impulsive and ultimately releasing social gatherings have been in my time as a student.
Formal group houses are the forums for these gatherings, and a springboard dance floor on the second level of the campus center can never replace these interactions.
So, as that voice behind you constantly reminds, “This isn’t the real world. You’re an adult on our terms and academics are your purpose,” remember that this is the real world and that academics are not your only purpose. You are an adult on your own terms and you should experience culture outside of the homogenous version promoted by this campus. While I do love a quiet night, I think it’s time we started meeting each other outside of tea and homework at the café.