Let”s face it. We have a terribly disjointed student body.
I suppose this is somewhat inevitable when 22,000 undergraduates are spread out over a 2,500 acre campus, but the social environment here is far too out-of-control.
The social segmentation all begins within the first few weeks of freshman year when 5,000 impressionable 18 year olds make an attempt to branch out. The problem is, most of the time “branching out” never happens. We instead seek out friends who, more often than not, are carbon copies of ourselves. This is a natural reaction one you can”t fault people for but the result is a campus that looks a lot like the opening ceremony of the Olympics with undistinguishable like-dressed, like-sounding figures parading around in packs.
For my take on how to fix this, read on. But first, here is a brief overview of the various social cliques on campus.
First, and most infamous of all, is the group that confined themselves primarily to the rear of Mary Markley Residence Hall their freshman year, venturing out only to eat at Mr. Greek”s Coney Island or party at meticulously selected frats. By day, the males can be seen strutting around the Diag with their fitted baseball hats resting slightly off center and backwards, just above their receding hairlines. The females, complete with bandanna-like headbands and cell phones that apparently only ring when they are in the library or in class, can be identified as the hyper ones who come to exam review sessions loaded with questions that make you shake your head in disbelief.
Second is one of two subgroups of in-state students that make out-of-state kids sneer. The most obvious members of this contingency hail from the more affluent sections of the Great Lakes State (Birmingham, Bloomfield, et al.) and will tell you at orientation that they came to Michigan which was not their first choice, of course because they plan on going to the B-school. This is the only way to save face after the Ivy League rejections start to pile up.
The third group (also part of the in-state category) is those with whom the haughty in-staters generally don”t associate. They rarely own an article of clothing that isn”t from Abercrombie or American Eagle and consider Ann Arbor to be a “big city.” They come from towns with strange names like Gaylord and Climax. Sometimes they don”t even venture outside their social circles from high school. (Kids from Traverse City are a good example of this.) Often, their first Friday evening that doesn”t involve a high school football game and a 7-Eleven occurs once they get here.
Then there are the various foreign student groupings. The Indian “mafia,” as they like to be called, the Hello Kitty pencil case-toting Asian kids who occupy the third and fourth floors of the UGLi and European undergrads who are all at least 26 upon entering their freshman year. I haven”t run across many Canadians yet and I”m thankful for that.
I propose a solution to end this quasi segregation. It won”t solve the problem but will help to alleviate it.
In an act of general benevolence, I suggest that seniors reach out to the freshman by paying a gift-bearing visit to their old dorm room.
It”s quite simple, really. On a night of your choosing, seniors, go to your freshman-year dorm room and greet the present residents with some snacks and a case of beer. (For those of you who don”t drink, a large pizza will suffice.) Then just sit and talk. Share any memorable experiences you cherish from your college career and let the freshmen know that what they”re about to go through for the next three or four years will be a trial-by-fire venture that, more likely than not, will turn them into a person remarkably larger than the person they are now. Let them know that college is the one time in their lives that petty worries need not burden their thoughts. Let them know that now is the time to live it up.
So if my little proposal is taken seriously and seniors actually do make an effort to truly branch out, this campus won”t be the type of place where you put your head down when passing someone from an old class who you just don”t feel like acknowledging.
Jeremy W. Peters can be reached at email@example.com.