Every University of Michigan student gets three opportunities to touch the grass at Michigan Stadium: two chances if Michigan beats Ohio state at home and once at graduation.
Unfortunately, as a member of the 2008 graduating class, I have suffered four years of losing to Ohio State. After this year’s Ohio State loss, I climbed to the top rows of an emptying Michigan Stadium to stare out onto the field. I was cold, wet, alone and heartbroken. But I realized that as magical as a win would have been, touching the field as a graduate would be even more special.
Now, I’ll never touch the grass of Michigan Stadium.
I won’t even graduate in the city I’ve called home for four years. I’m not bitter about going to Ypsilanti – there’s nothing wrong with the fair city next door – I would be just as upset if I found out I was graduating at the top of the Empire State Building. I just want to graduate here.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised, though. This incident just hammers home something I’ve always subconsciously felt. It may be a little blasphemous, but I don’t think this University cares about its students.
Sure, the University cares about academics and prestige. It cares about you getting a great job, you giving back some of your post-graduation earnings and maintaining its golden reputation that justifies its Ivy League-sized price tag. I’m saying the University doesn’t care about whether students are happy while they’re here.
For example, when was the last time you received a survey from the University to find out how your student experience was going? My best friend attends Virginia Tech. He receives several surveys every year. Some are basic “how are you” surveys from his department. Others ask him about the food options on campus. One even asked him to detail his experience with university advisers.
I remember the last time I received a survey: It was when the University asked what I would like to see improved about the Big House. They decided to renovate it with those suggestions – now those suggestions are hurting us.
If the University did ask about more everyday concerns, students would probably have a lot to say. A friend, who is now in the Ross School of Business, was told that he was ineligible to apply to the B-School. At large public universities, bureaucratic mishaps are bound to happen, but I would like to see an attempt at improvement.
Then there are concerts. A concert is a visible thing a university can do for its students. My Virginia Tech friend told me about eight university-sponsored concerts in the last four years at his college: acts like G-Unit, Dave Matthews Band, 311 and John Mayer. Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello played at Eastern Michigan University last semester. Of course, Ludacris performed here, even if it was a huge financial disaster. But that concert may not have happened without the grassroots effort of groups like Hillel and the Michigan Student Assembly. This month’s Mos Def show will mark only the second major act with a large student following during my four years.
The University has had no problem raising my tuition thousands of dollars during the past four years. I wouldn’t mind if two dollars of that tuition was going to front the money for a concert that might pay for itself.
Doing little things specifically for students would be a pleasant reminder that the administration knows we’re here. Yeah, the University brings great speakers to campus like Bill Clinton at last year’s commencement, but the primary audience is academics and older Ann Arbor residents. These aren’t student-centered activities.
I understand there are complexities here, and I know the University didn’t start the renovations with the intention of ruining graduation. But one of two things happened. Either they didn’t have the foresight to deal with it or they didn’t care. Both situations are equally troubling.
The worst part of the whole thing is that I end up feeling trapped in a bad relationship. No matter what the University does, I still love it here. In fact, everyone I know still loves it here. I don’t even know if “love” is a strong enough word to describe my passion for the University of Michigan. Right now, though, the class of 2008 is getting fucked.
I hope the administration hears our outcry. Maybe it will remind them that we’re here. Sometimes, I think they forget.
David Mekelburg is an outgoing associate news editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org