Waving Goodbye to the ‘Colgate Hello’

Jaime Coyne

Colgate lies. When I was still only considering Colgate, a Residential Life information session told me that all first-year dorms are on the quad. Then I walked through the quad (with Curtis far off in the distance), around some cones into a construction zone, and found myself at Gate House. To my inquiry of, “I thought all the first-year dorms were on the quad?” the response was something to the extent of “Yeah… no.”

It seems as though every time I walk past a tour, I hear the tour guide say something I know not to be true. One tour guide, as an example of the student input at Frank, told his audience that a certain food item that had been widely disliked the year before had not been seen there since. I had seen that food at Frank a few days earlier. My favorite, though, was the tour guide who said sophomore dorms have dishwashers. Unless the school has been hiding a major selling point of those dorms to us first-years, that will exist only in our dreams.

Of course, schools use euphemism and exaggeration to make themselves look better to prospective students, and I’m sure sometimes inconsistencies are honest mistakes (especially in the case of frazzled tour guides). But remarks like ‘all first-year dorms are on the quad’ are blatant lies. The most poignant example of this, to me, is the ‘Colgate Hello’. The idea was first imparted to me at orientation, but it is certainly not a one-time slip-up. In fact, it is used as a description of the general Colgate atmosphere. And yet it was immediately apparent to me that it was a fallacy.

The ‘Colgate Hello’, for those of you who have been living under a rock, is the notion that Colgate students, faculty and staff, upon passing by a person, will greet that person with a big smile and a hello – maybe even a wave. This might have almost been passable as fact at the beginning of our first year, since many people were vague acquaintances and only a few were shakily termed ‘friends’, so that everyone you saw, you ‘knew’, and thus you said hello to many of them. But even then it was certainly no chorus of hello’s, echoing down hallways and floating through the rafters.

Now, past spring break and nearing the end of the year, it is safe to say that that orientation-phase of first-year interactions has passed. Sure, I say hello to people I am friendly with when I pass them, and they say hello to me. But I hardly think that is distinctive to Colgate. In general life situations, don’t you say hello to people you are well acquainted with in passing? And just as consistently, I find that strangers do not greet each other in passing, barring awkward eye contact from a far enough distance that a barely perceptible smile seems necessary before you walk past each other and out of view. And that sort of communication hardly warrants praises of the warm and welcoming ‘Colgate Hello’.

It is certainly a nice idea, that we would all say hello to each other. But I think it is fairly evident to most of us that the ‘don’t-look-at-a-stranger’ mentality is just as prevalent at Colgate as anywhere else. We want to get to our destination quickly, not stop and make friends. And while maybe it would make for a better world to adopt the ‘Colgate Hello’, we simply haven’t. Why lie about it, when we’ve got so many positive attributes we could highlight instead?