April 13, 2014

BHOWMICK | Its the People, Not the Place

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A week spent in sunshine — almost 1500 miles away from Cornell — made me realize how desperately I needed Spring Break. Most people I know were not enthusiastic about heading back to school at all. Now that we have been back for a week, I shudder at the possibility that I might not have been able to get away at all because I am an international student. I do not necessarily despise Cornell, but there is an indisputable atmosphere of stress that clouds our campus. Every school year starts with high spirits — the ebullience of Orientation Week, great weather, bright colors on campus and the lightness of starting from the beginning with classes, friends and life. By the end of Fall Break, however, the first signs of disillusionment appear, and by the time we commence with second semester, all we want to do is somehow get through the drudgery and make it to Slope Day and summer break. Towards the very end of spring semester though, we start appreciating what we have again, it’s almost like a giant curve that maps out the collective emotional pulse on campus.

I have been guilty of blaming the weather and academics among other scapegoats for the tense atmosphere at school. Truth is that there is something unsettlingly absurd how these physical things can define the entirety of our college atmosphere. It simply took me a week to remove myself from the environment I am used to and experience what college can actually feel like to understand that the fault, dear Ezra, lies not in our stars but in our high-handedness we often mistake for swagger. We are responsible for people in our community feeling left out and equating college with absolute hell. There is something ridiculous about the way we’re doing things here if it is difficult for a person to “get into” a party when they want to have a good time. During freshman year, gaining social acceptance on a weekend translates into ensuring you have a good gender ratio, and by sophomore year, the Greek letters you wear somehow get you accepted or thrown out of social circles. And if you have no letters, it’s a whole new story. Make no mistake, Greek life adds vivacity to life on campus, but to my mind, it makes no sense that it ends up fragmenting the community, a considerable amount of exclusion and an unfortunate amount of unnecessary audacity.

It baffles me that under the cumulative strain of ace-ing classes, getting into the most remarkable clubs and what not, we just forget how to be nice. No one who goes here is necessarily more or less entitled — everyone is smart and talented, that much has already been established. So to all of the insolent humans at Cornell who think being involved in a dandy social organization on campus or a five-star resume is a good excuse to be inexcusably rude to people — sober or drunk — you’re wrong. One does not need a course to learn how to be nice to people, not scowl when someone smiles at you, apologize when you push someone because it’s a typical hurry, say thank you or sorry and just add to the sunshine this university needs from time to time. The infamous mental strain that we find ourselves cribbing about from time to time is only intensified when we decide to be the worst version of ourselves just because of finals or prelims or bad weather. An esteemed degree from an Ivy League school is not worth it if we fail to also be amiable human beings. Social interactions which take place on campus leaving individuals feeling discouraged and belittled are just not okay. So how about we do ourselves and everyone around us a favor and try to be the better versions of ourselves; the implications can be so far-reaching that it is really quite incredible.