Great Expectations

Colgate has an excellent strategy to recruit students. We have a beautiful campus, beautiful people, a multitude of amenities and one of the safest schools in the nation. Prospective students send in their letters of commitment, dreaming about the infamous “Colgate Hello”, wild parties, library robots, heated sidewalks and exclusive Starbucks café that were so frequently emphasized in guidebooks. Most recently, the class of 2011 arrived, eager to witness the wonders of the utopian campus we so prematurely flaunted to our fellow graduating classmates. Alas, the only things that have lived up to their reputations thus far have been the meticulously preened landscape, the rigorous workload and campo.

Initially, I considered the purchase of the College Prowler novel, “Colgate University: Off the Record” one of the most worthwhile investments I have ever made. I read it cover to cover before arriving, revering it in a hallowed light. There was no way the information compiled in the all-knowing book could be inaccurate, after all, every book in the series is written by students for students. Marching resolutely up the hill, little orange book in hand, I searched out famous landmarks: the futuristic Case Library, mundane Frank dining hall and the unfortunate lack of ethnic diversity. Everything seemed to be there, physically Colgate is an aesthetician’s greatest fantasy, but I was yearning to take advantage of the college scene in more depth.

The beginning of the school year promised to expose the intricacies of real college life or college life as told by the Princeton Review, Fiske Guide to College, my best friend College Prowler, etc. On the first day of school I laced up my sneakers, threw my book bag over my shoulder and headed out into the sunshine, bracing myself for the outpouring of reception I was about to receive. In the seven minutes it took me to get from Stillman Hall to Olin Hall, not one person gave me the “Colgate Hello” and no one around me seemed to care enough about anyone else to greet each other. The Colgate I pictured was a shy person’s best way to assimilate into college life rolling hills up in Madison County where earnest, happy individuals gathered to greet each other with wide smiles and emphatic, “Hellos”. Instead, I was disappointed to discover that not one established stranger made an attempt to Colgate-Hello me in the duration of the semester.

What is there to do in Hamilton on a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday night if not party? One of the most attractive features of this school is its dependable nightlife scene, and many of the sources I read, ran with the attitude that, “Colgate students play hard, but study harder.” After a week of pounding out papers and taking laborious notes, we look to the weekends to blow off some steam, yet venturing down the hill has become somewhat of a hit-or-miss situation because many of the parties are either invitation only, or are so filled up that waiting in line is futile. Most parties are mind-blowing, but I’ve noticed that the most infamous weekends have fallen short of expectations. Take the last Friday before Winter break as an example. What I envisioned to be a snowy extravaganza of drunken young adults who had just been released from a grueling fall semester turned out to be a slushy, windy night of capacity parties and scouring to find shelter.

The allure surrounding the library this year was part Starbucks, part R2-D2 and both fell through miserably. One of the most attractive pitches Colgate offered this past year was the promise of visionary Jetson-style robots in the new Case Library. I know I’m not the only one who visualized whirring robots zigzagging their way through aisles searching for requested books like something out of a sci-fi movie. Instead, what do we see of robots but a digitally created, ten-second video of the supposed “robot” picking up trays of books like a crane at Costco. Rather than looking like the future, Colgate’s retrieval system looks like a massive version of the soda machine in the Coop, only not available for viewing by the public and definitely not as cool. A couple floors up, Colgate’s pride-and-joy pseudo Starbucks sits in the only area of the library open to students past closing, yet the café is rarely open for peak visitation hours. I knew it existed only because the Case Library had its grand opening at the beginning of the school year and, at the time, I was excited to sip venti caramel frappuccinos over Modernity homework. As I sauntered up, full of anticipation, I glanced up at the menu with surprise none of the drinks Starbucks came to be known for were served. Because I don’t drink coffee, I’m forever relegated to hot chocolate, served “fresh” from a silver packet of mix. Instead of being jealous, my friends back home laughed at the idea of a not-Starbucks being the only place to get coffee during long hours at finals week.

The most hurtful (literally), over-hyped part of Colgate’s campus is its heated sidewalks. In the relatively demure winter we’ve had so far, I have fallen four times on the sidewalk that is heated for supposed “improved walking”. The dreamy vision I had of our heated sidewalks involved uninhibited trips between buildings, accompanied by frightful thoughts of what could happen if ice were allowed to accumulate on the pavement. Unfortunately, those visions have given way to reality four-too-many-times. Each of the experiences were exactly the same: unsuspecting, dreary, boot-wearing student marching down the hill to study, walks over what appears to be a frost-less surface of cement, in a moment of sheer comedy, he falls banana-peel style, legs kicking in the air before the impact of butt and crushed rock. The ice is real, the bruises were real, but the safe, heated sidewalks are a farce.

Maybe I should consider myself fortunate to attend such a flagrant school. On the other hand, don’t we deserve to have a real Starbucks, safe walking paths and robots we can be proud of? We’re not in a major city, but that doesn’t mean we have to create an illusion for students to consider attending. If not for the distinctive features of our campus, what makes us different from any other top-notch institution in the country? Our love of the number 13 can hardly be the basis of someone’s decision to come here. I think its time the rumors and marketing illusions finally came to fruition nothing is more disappointing than to discover that your dream, 50,000 dollar per semester college comes up depressingly short of your expectations.