Letter to the Editor – Newspaper Lacks Substance

To the Editor,

It’s about time we take stock of the immature character ofColgate’s student culture. This week’s Colgate calendarschedules no fewer than 50 or so outside-of-class lectures, concerts, discussions, talks, colloquia, films, resentations, demonstrations and meetings, many with outstandingthinkers and some (such as Garick Ohlsonn) featuring world-class performers and participants. These are offered and devised for the continuing education of intelligent, thoughtful, imaginative, reflective and motivated students: young personsdetermined to learn about and understand their world. Much of this is devised asan apprenticeship for future leaders in the society and culture.

In contrast, as one perusesthe student newspaper to sample immediate student thought and culture at Colgate, one is abashed at the poor taste and puerile kiddishness reflected in the choices of topics and the level of expression of thought and concerns of the pieces. Student concerns, such as they are, are a stream of self-centered indulgent complaints about the poverty of eating opportunities (restaurants) in Hamilton, of the personal hardships offlight delaysin returning after spring break, of the emptiness of the practice of bar-hopping (with or without a boyfriend), of the nostalgic joys of a movie centered on high-school friendships, of the call for more money for the Budget Allocations Committee (with no assessment of how wasted or well-used those funds have been), with a half-page of empty-headed, if not uselessly (or dangerously) silly recipes for alcoholic drinks (as the writer occupied her mind “frolic[ing] on the beach”), and with movie, music and drama reviews of some sophistication, but of little effort to connect with the central intellectual life of the college or of (one would hope) our students.

The one opportunity to do a serious intelligentservice, illuminatingthe point of the student dramatic presentation of a Brecht drama–“Drums in the Night” was frittered away withsimplistically developed comments on the play as about “two people in love…who find humanity in their love”. Comments about as far removed from Brecht’s purposes in his dramaturgical work and from the point of this play of inter-war Germany, as one could imagine. The review turned on how much fun the cast had in performing, and how thrilled they were to work with a new director. This review along with the rest of the articles with their central focus on indulgence: fun, frivolity orinterferences therewith; with expressions of low if not absent good taste, and a prevailing assumed enthusiasm – as is reflected in its full 7 pages – for any kind of sports and athletic exercise.

There was one piece noting the war in Iraq and another with environmental concerns; apart from these there was nothing which made any attempt to connect the student culture with the intellectual purposes of the college or with that intellectualworld outside – which they must soon enter.

Our student culture, centered as apparently it is, on personal satisfaction, pleasure and convenience, lacks depth, seriousness and integrity of purpose–and isseparated if not divorced from intellectual life more generally.

J. BalmuthColgate Faculty