A First-Year Looks Critically at Colgate’s Culture

I’ve had my fair share of first-year difficulties with classes, rooming and the administration here at Colgate, but those aren’t the reasons why I’ve wanted to leave – or why I’ve decided to stay.

            The entire education system – and Colgate in particular – is another pillar of support for a system which has caused us so many problems, including our:

1.     Intolerance of major change or diversity;

2.     Failing education system;

3.     General lack of morals, and;

4.     General lack of happiness.

            My first point may be counterintuitive; people seem increasingly liberal, with social issues like homosexuality gaining support despite our blue door incident. Yet conservatives are most able to influence politics, economics and education to prevent change because they have the money to do so, as demonstrated by recent gerrymandering, filibusters, “humanization” of corporations and their campaign donations, voter fraud, gun rights activism and open misogyny. Most Colgate students support these actions in speech and vote; recent discussions I’ve heard around campus include opposition to affirmative action in principle, opposition to universal health care in principle and victim-blaming. And with 60 percent of students paying full tuition, and frequent complaints on RateMyProfessor.com of professors being “too liberal,” most of the student body seems to have been raised in wealthy Republican families.

            Wealthy families in particular find it easy to patronize schools with a minority of dissimilar students throughout their entire lives, ensuring the cycle continues. This is my next point: our education system perpetuates itself. Colgate continues admitting the same type of students, and students typically associate with students like themselves; thus, we perpetuate universities as bubbles and student-groups as sub-bubbles. What’s more, acceptance into institutions of higher education is becoming increasingly competitive and expensive (Colgate: $58,000), catering to the upper-class. Thus, student body diversity is decreasing, and students aren’t encouraged to change; instead, they can define themselves just as they did in high school – which is how they were defined by their upbringing. This is not only an unacceptable cause of stagnation in various realms of our society, but it is painful to see at Colgate.

            That pain is furthered by the manner in which the system is set up: namely, a capitalism- and competition-promoting hierarchical arena, in which students looking for jobs are expected to have fought for the best grades, noteworthy extracurricular activities and internships and positions in those activities. While some (notably extroverts) are suited to this type of lifestyle, many are not, and we suffer for that which is not sustainable in any case. Students are asked to push themselves too hard, leading to risky behaviors like the drug and alcohol abuse that is noticeable on campus.

            Just as this system encourages competition, it encourages and rewards amoral behavior in the job industry, from banking and the economic crisis to industry and the tragedy of the commons. Yet those are the values entrenched in Colgate. I wandered into the Career Services office in November, introduced myself as a first-year interested in “Doing Good” as a career – maybe volunteering for a while, working for NGOs and idealistic institutions like the UN before getting into government work or something like that. “Well,” whispered my adviser, shocked. “Well, I mean, that is, you could accomplish those same kinds of things at work. I mean, at a more traditional job. You could earn money and do that in your spare time.”

            Hence, my fourth and final point: with rising rates of divorce, depression, other mental and developmental disorders and suicide, particularly noteworthy in Western societies, and the slow decline of the U.S., apparently in favor of China, we may want to reconsider our values. Doing things for others has been psychologically provento make humans happy and combat depression. While there are plenty of people that enjoy competition, encouragement of collusion and promotion of the COVE and groups like DoRAK might be wise for Colgate.

Contact Lee Tremblay at [email protected].