Responses to Professor Balmuth’s March 29 Letter to the Editor, “Newspaper Lacks Substance”

Marin Cohn

Contrary to the March 22 Letter to the Editor suggestion, I firmly believe that the Maroon-News should reflect the interests and concerns of Colgate students, whatever they may be. However, I do find the “stream of self-centered indulgent complaints” to be somewhat reflective of what is perhaps a growing mentality towards apathy among students.

Over the summer I read an article in Rolling Stone about young women at Duke University. In the interview, the women stated that they felt compelled to be constantly productive, that they were essentially always in the pursuit of upholding their expectation of perfection. Being smart and beautiful, they claimed, is necessary for success. Thus, if they were not studying, they were at the gym or else at parties and attempting to advance their social images. This “work hard, play hard” mentality as depicted in the article about Duke, is not far off from the prevalent ideology at Colgate, or at many institutions of higher learning for that matter. It is in fact rare that I find a student picking up a book for pleasure, or spending the weekend visiting museums. While this may be due in large part to the lack of cultural opportunities in Hamilton as opposed to a cosmopolitan locale, I think there is something to be said for these new trends in student behaviors. If not working to get a good grade on a paper, most students are working on their physical health or advancing their social status. Many of us have little time for any real leisure- cultivating our minds sans alcohol or peers.

But with so much on our plates, are students really to blame? Due to the influence and pressure created by our parents, MTV and even music lyrics, we are almost bred towards achieving a certain level of success. Even admittance to college, which at this point essentially requires candidates to be interested in saving the world and a nationally renowned cellist, only works to perpetuate this mentality. With so many expectations, so many requirements, so many pressures to have the best grades, be the most fit and most well-rounded, is it really a surprise that we want to waste away our weekends rather than focusing them on any true substantial or intellectual thoughts?

On April 1, there was an article in the Times, “Be Yourself, but be Perfect” which talked about a newfound “anorexia of the soul” prevalent among high school girls anxious to get into college. Because these girls are so focused on being the best, and they are essentially expected to be super-human in order to obtain an acceptance letter from the nation’s top colleges, they begin to lose their genuine interests. Due to all of the things we have to do, it is becoming more and more common that people find themselves without the time or energy to pursue what they want to do. This cycle however doesn’t stop after high school; it continues in the rat race to get the best internship or the best job. In many ways, college and higher education has thus become an avenue towards obtaining economic success rather than working towards educational cultivation.

This phenomenon, which is not by any means unique to Colgate, is sweeping our nation. With more and more students attending college, the growing discrepancy in wages and the continual pressures to excel, our values are being completely directed towards what has been predetermined as “success”. Rather than using our education to expand our minds or towards intellectual pursuits, as the recent letter suggests we ought to do, we are rather forced into a race to the top. Therefore, students find no advantage to write intriguing articles or discussing philosophy. And because we are consumed by a million other pressures, we should be cut a little slack when our political and cultural involvement does not necessarily reach the highest intellectual standard.