What would college life be better off without?
In separate articles and op-eds appearing in campus newspapers throughout this past semester, students offered a bevy of suggestions on “unnecessary traditions, ideas and institutions” that should be scrapped or significantly changed.
Taken together, they represent a massive de-cluttering worthy of a similar feature published in The Washington Post.
The Post‘s annual “Spring Cleaning” asks a select group of thinkers to nominate “an idea, a tradition, a habit, a technology . . . that we’d all be better off tossing out” from society at-large.
In its four-year run, writers have proposed that everything from engagement rings, exit polls, and premium gas to chick flicks, small talk, and the vice presidency be given the boot.
In the spirit of those real-world recommendations, consider the list below a collegiate spring cleaning of sorts– just in time for commencement, move-out, and summer break. Here is a sampling of the academic, social, residential, and fashion trends and traditions that students contend should be trashed or upended.
1. Essay Writing
“Why on earth are we still writing essays? Once we graduate, will we ever find ourselves in the situation where our supervisor/manager/mom asks us a difficult question and gives us three months to prepare an answer, write it down, with a word limit, one inch margins and font size 12? I don’t think so. And once the paper is written, the euphoria of having it done makes us think that the whole world will read it, but it’s not, it is read by an audience of one (our lecturer, who knows far more than we attempt to know already), and it’s then lost in the cyberspace of Turnitin. . . . I think that the style of essay writing is nonsense; it achieves nothing but confusion, and the over-use of the synonyms function.”
– Richard Holland, The Leeds Student, University of Leeds
2. Unpaid Internships Without College Support
“For me and many of my peers, taking an unpaid internship can be a difficult decision with the cost of an education weighing heavily on all our shoulders. The issue of unpaid internships is a contentious topic across the country as legions of desperate students descend upon relatively few positions in the hopes of finding an inroad into their future career. . . . Unpaid internships give an implicit advantage to wealthier students who can afford to go spend a summer doing unpaid work and not worry about tuition bills or living expenses. . . . To overcome the naturally occurring bias that unpaid internships have towards the wealthy, it is important for colleges to provide support for students who desire to take such positions but are held back by financial considerations. . . . Only then will unpaid internships become a viable option for today’s disadvantaged students who currently don’t have the resources to take every opportunity available to them.”
– Dillon Cory, The Chicago Maroon, University of Chicago
3. Giant-T-Shirt-Non-Pants Fashion Trend
“An epidemic has swept our campus and taken over our ladies. I am talking of course about the Giant-T-Shirt-Non-Pants (GTSNP) virus. Symptoms of the virus include females wearing giant T-shirts and a form of non-pants and usually include severe cerebral malfunctioning, or stupidity. The virus seems to be spreading mostly over sorority girls but has been known to transfer to those closest to them. . . . First you will notice the T-shirt. It will be larger than the female wearing it by at least three sizes and will normally be a bright color, sometimes with anywhere from one to many logos for local businesses, fraternity formals and bars printed on them. Next, you will notice the lack of pants. Anyone can wear a T-shirt and jeans but the virus calls for a lack of pants. Please be warned: Leggings and athletic shorts are not pants. . . . Other things you may notice are Rainbow brand flip-flops or a Polo Ralph Lauren ball cap. Essentially, the infected will display signs of preparing to go to the gym, without ever going to the gym.”
– Courtney Escher, The George-Anne, Georgia Southern University
4. Punishments for Unexcused Absences
“Syllabi . . . tell us that our absences will not be excused without a note from a doctor. Unless you visit the emergency room, no student is going to have regular, unscheduled access to their family physician. Even if we do produce a doctor’s note, we are still given a limited amount of ‘sick days.’ If we exceed the given number of days, our grades are penalized. Some professors even require students to be in school for tests, regardless of excuse, because no make-up test will be offered. My opinion is that the practice of penalizing students for being sick is wrong. I realize there are those out there who skip school or feign illness to get out of class work. I offer that these people should not remove the benefit of the doubt from the rest of us. . . . The people who skip class are going to do it regardless of the penalties. All the penalties do is scare sick kids into going to school and making the situation worse. . . . By coming in, we spread our sicknesses, prolong our misery and produce inferior work all in order to avoid absence penalties.”
– Mark McMillan, The Oakland Post, Oakland University
5. Nice Guys Finishing Last
“So why is it that the majority of the time the careless jerk, we’ll refer to him as Chad McSexy, gets the girl over us, sweet and caring guys? . . . [L]adies, cut the nice guys some slack. We’re truly sorry we reference so many dorky things, play a lot of video games, and don’t have Ryan Reynolds’ abs. But this doesn’t mean we should be cast out and left bitter and alone because of it. Give us a chance to become the men you never thought we could be. Who knows? We may surprise you.”
– Chris McLaughlin, The Criterion, Colorado Mesa University
6. Deadbeat Professors
“In all my time at Chico State, I never had a professor that wasn’t excited about teaching. Until this semester. Twice every week, I have to suffer through an uncharacteristically bad lecture from a man who constantly bemoans how little he wants to be standing at the front of the class, in between five-minute mini-speeches on information nearly every person in the room already knows. This professor is constantly condescending, subtly implying that we’d rather be out partying than attending a class we each took great pains and expenses to take. And as a result, I dread going every day. . . . Sometimes all it takes is the effects of one bad worker to demonstrate why it’s so important to do the job right.”
– Ben Mullin, The Orion, California State University, Chico
7. Gender-Specific Campus Housing
“Gender-neutral housing means the choice to live with someone whom students know will be supportive of their sexuality or gender identity. It means freedom from discomfort, discrimination, harassment and fear. It means the choice to live with those who are most comfortable with them, and, in turn, to live in the environment they find most comfortable– a right taken for granted by every other student. . . . [T]his is not just about providing a new housing option for one group of students. This is about ensuring every American has access to the American Dream, to the equality of rights guaranteed by our Constitution. . . . This issue affects us all. Equality isn’t a special interest. Americans have a responsibility to demand the promises of our founding be fulfilled and to fight so their fellow citizens may be recognized as human beings worthy of the same regard, the same respect, the same basic dignity.”
– Editorial Board, The Oklahoma Daily, University of Oklahoma
8. Smoking Breaks for Student Workers
“Whether you’re a smoker or a nonsmoker, you are likely familiar with the term ‘smoke break.’ As a nonsmoker, my familiarity stems from the admiration that develops as I watch my co-workers indulge in 10 minutes or so of uninterrupted, paid, break time. Ten minutes to stand or sit outside where they can smoke, check their phone and re-group. Let’s imagine for a minute a nonsmoker, like myself, walks outside during a shift, sits down and checks his or her text messages. Such a scenario would most likely be followed by a soliloquy of screaming from a manager. But wait– my co-worker just did the exact same thing. Oh, I see, they have an excuse because they’re smoking? . . . I simply ask where my nonsmoking break is. If I cannot have a nonsmoking break in the workplace, then please discontinue the permission of short breaks for smokers.”
– Emma DeFilippo, The Lantern, Ohio State University
9. Bad Grammar
“This column is going to be about . . . a national emergency– the complete deterioration of our ability to write well. Even at Yale I have experienced disdain for my love of grammar. . . . Grammar governs the way we speak, so we couldn’t communicate without it. . . . But did you know that, according to founder of National Grammar Day Martha Brockenbrough, ‘In one survey of hiring managers, 75 percent said it was worse for an applicant to have a spelling or grammar error on his application than for him to show up late or– get this– swear during an interview.’ Even worse, ‘A utility company in Canada had to pay an extra $2.13 million in 2006 to lease power poles because someone stuck a comma in the wrong spot.’ Grammar matters.”
– Scott Stern, The Yale Daily News, Yale University
10. Post-Graduation Life Goals
“You have probably stopped counting the number of times you were told to keep focused on your goals. The truth though, is that if you do, you will never achieve what you want. What a disaster. . . . Why do we have these dreams and seek after these goals? If we look deeply we will realize that it is because we want to experience a certain feeling. It may be security, respect, independence, power, thrill or perhaps happiness. Is it possible however, to experience these feelings before reaching our goals? Yes we can, and it is important that we do. . . . We must put your entire focus on NOW– letting go of the future to take care of itself. It always does. We cannot achieve anything outside of the present, so ‘take one day at a time.’ Nothing else is possible beyond this truth. Go ahead. Make wonderful goals; I have many. Know that ultimately, however, goals do not matter. The only thing that matters is what you do with NOW.”
– Courtney Simons, The Spectrum, North Dakota State University
What do you think? Are there any suggestions or arguments with which you disagree? And what would you add to the list?
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