22 September 2008

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." - Douglas Adams

I give my school a bad rap sometimes. I still maintain my vehement disagreement about trays and funds and the like. And I'll still believe that my pet name for it, Stepford University, is pretty fitting.

I have a hard time living among lots and lots of people, where there is no place to be alone. While I don't like it, I can't deny that it's a learning experience that will be helpful throughout my life. For example, when I sat on the mostly-deserted quad on a Saturday morning to read, searching for solitude, I learned that I'm allergic to ants.

But really. Social skills and all that good junk.

I admit, I'm growing fond of this place. We have some fairly amazing professors. I have yet to have one that doesn't care about my dumb questions. Being an opinion columnist for the school paper gives a sense of place, as well. While sometimes I've regretting my choice of school, now I can't imagine being somewhere else. This is my school, for better or for worse.

Birmingham is not my favorite city, and Alabama is certainly not my favorite state (frankly, I'd rather be in the mountains), but I'm discovering its rich and varied history. I have also found a most amazing church, full of fellowship, good worship, and opportunities. Among many things, being a part of this church is helping me rediscover the purpose for love and affinity for music. It's also good for having friends outside of the Stepford bubble, which is an important thing to do. Many Stepford students go to giant churches in droves, making church merely an extension of the bubble.

But I don't get up at 8 in the morning to blog. I have to write a topic proposal. Pip pip, cheerio!

"It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems with a bag of potatoes." - Douglas Adams

15 September 2008

What about my 100 grand?

Stepford U is "going green." This is a tricky statement. "Green" in fact does not mean "green" in the sense of "eco-friendly," (I'm being quotation-mark happy today, apparently) as SU would like you to think, nor does it refer to the campus's plush million-dollar lawns. No, in fact, green refers to the inordinate amount of money that SU receives from students (more like students' parents), alumni, and random ridiculously wealthy benefactors that is going toward some overlarge nebulous future building projects. Not to fixing or rebuilding crumbling residence halls, not to serving healthy food, not to updating old educational facilities, not to free newspapers for students, not to more academic scholarships (or increasing current scholarships in proportion with the recent 7% tuition increase), and definitely not toward anything else that might benefit current students. Nor is much going toward the community in an effort to take action on the care and servitude so often preached at Christian schools.

Yes, I am irritated. SU is an incredibly rich school. I'd daresay we're rolling in the green, and once again I'm not talking about the verdant quad lawn. Yet every day I see less and less of this money being used. The recent infractions include residence halls, scholarships, newspapers, and cafeteria trays.

The latter two seem petty, right? Let's examine them for a moment, per favore. The school took away free newspapers for students, those newspapers being USA Today, some random local paper, and the New York Times. Why? Because it's not "green" to have newspapers, and this time I do mean "eco-friendly." Why would students want a newspaper when they can get the news online and from The Daily Show? is another facet of the argument. News from the Daily Show? A farce on the Comedy channel?
I read USA Today, when we had it, I really enjoyed it, and I miss it. Sure, I could go out and buy it, but then I'd be paying for gas plus the cost of the newspaper, and I wouldn't get to pay any less for school. And since when is paper not recyclable? Give us some actual recycling bins instead of taking away our window to life outside the bubble.

They've also taken away the cafeteria trays. The claim is, "They waste crazy amounts of water, crazy amounts of food, and crazy amounts of money!" You see, some guy at some expensive research institution with too little to do performed a study and decided that schools could save $40,000 by taking away the trays. Well, I did my own little study, and it was much more cost efficient and eco-friendly, as it all took place in my head.

1.) $40,000 is $10 per SU student, approximately one one-thousandth of four years' tuition.

2.) Since when is water not recyclable? More recyclable than paper, I might add! Hey, what about using the water we wash trays with as gray water for watering the lawns instead of using Lake Lanier's water? That's right, I said it.

3.) How many people get a tray, put a plate of food on it, and think, "Hm, this plate looks lonely. I should get another plate full of food, a couple bowls of food, and several cups to keep it company!" Do you? Didn't think so. Why are we wasting "crazy amounts of food," then? Maybe it's because the food isn't good. Maybe, once we get it and realize it's not good, we go get something else in hopes that it will be better. Maybe it's also because the generous and well-meaning cafeteria ladies pile our plates with too much food than we can eat.

"Banning the trays" is also being hailed as "green" ("eco-friendly"). I have yet to understand this. It seems to me that all the changes around here to save green are really to save the fiduciary type of green. Meanwhile, there's a roofless residence hall, dwindling scholarships, no newspapers, and as of today, 4,000 students struggling not to drop their multiple plates and utensils on the way to the tray return (we need to change the name now, I suppose). Someone actually did drop theirs today, actually, and the entire cafeteria erupted in cheering.

I'm just wondering if there's a landfill somewhere filled with thousands of tuition checks, blowing in the wind.