Posts Tagged university life

Uniting the campus on all fronts

There has always been a subtle and quiet divide on the campuses of American universities between undergraduate and graduate students. Most of the time this divide is ignored and swept under the rug by all those involved in the discussion.

Undergraduates sweep this under the rug because they don’t understand what graduate students and graduate school are about. Graduate students ignore the issue because most of them do not feel that undergraduate students have much effect on their lives. Neither one of these approaches is correct.

What needs to occur is a breaking down of this undergraduate-graduate student barrier and the building of understanding. This is a difficult task: Every year there are new undergraduate students who spend the first two or three semesters of college figuring out how to navigate the campus, both in physical terms (where is the library?) and finesse terms (how do I register for classes and get the good professor?).

At the same time, there are graduate students who are so serious about studying that they refuse to take part in campus life — objecting whenever a loud party is within earshot.

I propose a two-part solution to this problem: focusing both on undergraduates and on graduate students. As a part of campus orientation, undergraduates should be given a bigger picture of what higher education is about and how it works: the administrative structure of campus and the relationship between schools and between different higher education institutions.

Incoming graduate students should receive a similar lecture and review of the higher education system — one that focuses on the role of undergraduates at the institution.

The goal of this program would be to help prevent the misunderstandings that can sometimes occur on campus as a result of ignorance and lack of caring. Take for instance the recent example of the forum held to discuss the accidental release of names and Social Security numbers by the bursar’s office.

This primarily affected graduate students, and a sprinkling of undergraduates. John Mersch, moderator of the Graduate Student Organization, led the forum, which brought University administrators together to talk to more than 300 affected students.

Mersch said the IU Student Association offered no assistance during the organization of the forum. While I will not say that the proposed courses on University structure would have driven IUSA to organize or assist in sponsoring the forum, an IUSA leadership educated about the role of graduate students on a college campus might have taken a stronger interest in an issue that was seemingly for graduate students only.

Naturally, this can work in reverse. So many graduate students are absorbed in their own studies they often forget there is a physical and social campus surrounding them. These graduate students need to take some time and understand there are issues affecting undergraduates that they might be able to assist in resolving.

This can be as simple as participating in undergraduate student organizations and events, or as complicated as helping undergraduates fight inane enforcement of alcohol policies.

The strength of attending IU as an undergraduate is the wealth of opportunities it offers. The Bloomington campus offers more artistic activities, athletic events and class choices than a smaller liberal arts college. For graduate students, the reasons for picking IU are the same: artistic activities, athletic events and class choices. This is one thing we all have in common. A little time to understand our roles in campus life will go a long way to making this a better and more understanding campus.

Universities draw their strength from the combination of undergraduates and graduate students working together with the faculty and staff. We can have institutions of higher education where there is no campus community, but the learning that goes on at those institutions is more sterile and less involving. There are places for other types of institutions, but if we’ve chosen to attend this University, we should all be involved in the campus community.

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A Love Hate Relationship

I have a love-hate relationship with Bloomington. I hate the heat and humidity of this quiet Midwestern town, but I love the vibrancy and spirit this city has. It’s the latter that keeps me happy. And it’s going to be a September to remember in this place I now call home.

It started Friday with a trip to the Live it Up Late Nite at the Indiana Memorial Union, where I got a wonderful character sketch by a local artist, free with a student ID. She managed to capture me perfectly, and I now have an awesome present for my parents, although the parental units will probably only get a copy. I like the original too much to give it away.

I wandered next door and watched Full Frontal Comedy, a group of IU students who do comedy sketches about life in the world and at IU. It’s the latter that is particularly impressive. Friday night in a discussion of Napster, the group managed to get several sacred IU cows ‘ including Myles Brand ‘ in compromising positions.

The group is Bloomington’s best and brightest star on the improv comedy circuit. Its willingness to take on hot potato issues makes members leading cutting-edge observers of the city and campus. They outdo all the columnists in The Herald-Times and the IDS, so go see them before you leave this campus.

During the weekend, I wandered downtown for another Bloomington event: the Fourth Street Festival, an annual arts festival held every Labor Day Weekend. This particular festival reminds me of how far I have to go in life.

My apartment is filled with the typical trashy furniture and bad poster art you would expect from a college student. But at the festival, I discovered real art that I want on my wall, starting cheap ($50 for a photograph) and soaring to the expensive (thousands of dollars).

But even at the cheap end, this art is beyond my budget. I’m at a stage in which $50 is better spent on my electric bill or trips to the grocery store. But it was free to look and free to enjoy. My favorite items were the huge, hanging glass ornaments, so huge that even if I could casually drop a few hundred dollars for one, I wouldn’t have a place to put it in my apartment.

What’s particularly impressive about all of this is that this is only the first weekend of September. There is more to come, with the best coming the last weekend of the month.

Saturday, we can enjoy the first IU football game of the season. IU will be host to North Carolina State. Women’s soccer will also compete in two games next weekend.

The last weekend of the month will bring us the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, arguably the best festival in Bloomington all year. This event is five days of musical performance by groups from around the world, capped on Friday and Saturday nights by live performances at seven stages around downtown. This is a great way to learn about bands from around the world, such as Wimme from Finland, Lila Downs from Mexico and Dhagha from India. This might not be the Backstreet Boys or Madonna, but you will appreciate the difference.

That brings me back to the beginning: my love-hate relationship with Bloomington. I hate the Midwestern heat and humidity. But the vibrant life that exists here makes this one awesome place to live. The trick is balancing the school books with the festivals, and that’s no easy feat.

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Homeowners’ complaints futile

Whine, whine, whine is the word of the day coming from local residents who live in the Garden Hill neighborhood, and although I sympathize with their complaints, they are clearly speaking out of turn.

It is my belief that when you move into a neighborhood, you take responsibility for knowing the pre-existing conditions of the neighborhood and therefore lose your right to complain about problems unless there is a significant change in the conditions.

That is to say, if you live in a quiet neighborhood 50 miles from a major international airport and then one moves in, you have a right to complain. But if you move into a neighborhood and a major international airport is only five miles from your doorstep, you lose your right to complain.

And that is the issue between the Garden Hill Neighborhood Association membership and the hundreds of student renters who live in the neighborhood.

According to a Saturday Herald-Times article, “Neighborhood group seeking peace, quiet,” the neighborhood bounded by 17th Street on the north, 14th Street on the south, Walnut Street to the west, and Indiana Street on the east, has a sum total of 20 owner-occupied homes and more than 100 rental addresses (many with multiple rental units). In other words, homeowners are outnumbered by a significant margin.

Yet these homeowners are whining about party noise, including one local resident who is going so far as to remodel a room with thick layers of insulation and ear plugs with rifle-range ear protection and pillows so that he can sleep. I really do sympathize, but the whiners moved into the neighborhood knowing that IU was right next door.

Maybe they bought their houses 15 years ago when there were fewer renters, but then again my parents bought their house in Denver, five miles from an international airport before the advent of large jumbo jets and planes landing every few minutes, and they never complained: it was a fact of life.

My parents bought their house knowing about the airport nearby and they never once complained about the jumbo jets screaming over the house, despite the fact that you could hear the noise from jets even at 1 a.m., or the fact that the noise got progressively worse as the years went by.

That’s not to say that I do not sympathize with the homeowners. I do not doubt that many of today’s student renters are noisier and more obnoxious than student renters of years past. The party noise levels probably have been rising since the ‘50s, although I suspect the bulk of the decibel increase came in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

The probable truth of the matter is that some of the homeowner’s reported increase during the past 15 years (since 1984) is probably more reflective of the fact that they have less tolerance for noise today than they did when they moved in. Most people in their twenties are far more willing to withstand the rattling windows than most people in their forties.

That’s not to say, though, that the student renters who are causing problems don’t need to be stopped. I admire the Garden Hill Neighborhood Association for trying, but they should realize that they made the choice to live where they live.

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