Turn that frown upside down, Emersonians

by Beacon Staff • February 13, 2008

Only a tiny fraction of the world's inhabitants are lucky enough to attend a private college in America. Emersonians are included in this fortunate population, and an outsider might rightfully assume that this good luck would lend the students an air of thankful bliss.

That outsider would be wrong.

At Emerson, thankfulness is strangely hard to come by. Instead, our campus is flooded with myopic complaints and ceaseless claims of entitlement. Lives of college-insulated privilege have impaired our ability to put our truly fortuitous situation into perspective. Whether or not Emersonians admit it, their material needs are thoroughly satisfied, perhaps over satisfied.

Our collective sense of justice is in desperate need of recalibration. If we want to claim full maturity in society, if we want to be seen as fully developed and contributing citizens, what we consider truly and profoundly unjust must become equal with the scope of our ambition.

We cannot make films about the dining hall closing early. We cannot write extended prose about the limitations of our smallish library. We cannot inhabit theatrical characters who are infuriated at the perceived injustice of a professor refusing to move back a due date. It is all too small, too penny ante, too "college."

Many college students have grown up with their parents telling them life's troubles build character. However, it is not the inconveniences that build character, but the realization that such inconveniences are ultimately meaningless that will yield personal growth.

Yes, there are certain "injustices" here and there: for example, textbook prices are outrageous, even burdensome. Unfairness should be fought anywhere it exists, but it is imperative to note that as college students fight to bring down the price of books, many in the state, country and world are fighting for nothing less than their lives.

I used to work at the Little Building's C-Store. Last September, the freezer there temporarily went out-of-order, sending many Lions into pseudo-hysterics. What would they do without their Ben Jerry's fix? Sure, the cafe in Piano Row was still well-stocked with goodies, and a selection of ice cream was still-as always-available in the Dining Hall, but students took the opportunity to lavishly complain. Believe me, I know; as a C-Store employee, I was forced to endure much of it.

And for all that can be said about the Dining Hall, the options featured there are actually vast, the quality of food normally palatable and its offerings always safe. While millions starve around the world and many are hungry just around the corner, no one is starving at Emerson College.

Maybe, all the nitpicking provides a point of unity in a strange environment. Friendship is largely about shared experience, and many Emersonians have bonded over thorough critiques of school issues, however minor and inconsequential they may be. Come to think of it, if we did not complain, we might have to fundamentally redefine how to function as college students-how to converse, how to think, how to live. The irony abounds, then, given Emerson's location: Boston, a hub of higher education that overflows with an awareness of the world's true plights, from war to genocide.

Emerson students should use their vocational skills to improve their quality of life and the quality of life of the community around them. We must take whining-a feeble expression of human need-and translate it into action, which can solve real human problems.

This isn't to say that Emerson students shouldn't get what they pay for. After all, the school's tuition is admittedly sizable. High-grade food, residence, administrative and academic services should be expected, as well as other amenities that come along with a $40,000 per year bill.

But a reasonable expectation for quality in all areas should not-must not-devolve into endless griping, especially if that griping contains no intention to seek solutions for the problems enumerated.

Making this distinction is not difficult. When not followed by by constructive action, complaining is just old-fashioned whining, the sort barely acceptable among toddlers, never mind twenty-somethings.