We are one week into the fall semester, and if this week sets any precedent, the student body should prepare itself to keep on hearing all the complaints centering around our new Usdan Center. “They” (the undefined group of administrators who sat in on countless meetings to plan, approve, and construct a vision for the new student center) have been labeled idiots, “How is the whole school going to fit inside during the cold months?” and as an equally insensitive group, “They took away First Harvest Café! Now there is NOTHING I can eat here!” I have had friends tell me to boycott eating at the Usdan, “The workers lost their health benefits, and Bon Appétit is bringing in scabs who they pay in cash underneath the table!” Despite all the complaints I have heard concerning the collective anxiety that has arisen after the opening of Usdan, life at Wesleyan continues forward on the trajectory set in place from all the semesters preceding Fall 2007.
As I hear students list an alphabet of grievances with our new center, I wonder about the sincerity behind all these whines. I am looking around and witnessing the same happy and healthy student body, clad in thick plastic sunglasses, or colored Polo shirts, or hemp necklaces, that make this school the place everyone loves to hate, yet finds an agreeable niche nonetheless. Listen, the food quality may or may not be better than Aramark, but let’s give the Usdan employees time to figure out how to accommodate all our particular needs. Skim milk versus Soy milk, waiting in one long line in the Usdan versus the one of this school waited in last year at Davenport for a deli sandwich, and this prevailing fear that the new Usdan symbolizes a new Wesleyan, a homogenized Wesleyan; well, these complaints and debates can only come from a group of students as privileged as ourselves who attend this prestigious institution.
College is not hell and it’s certainly not an authoritarian regime. We all took the SATs and accepted to matriculate into this upper-middle class vision of higher education. For any student who wandered Fountain Avenue or High Street during our first school weekend, it seemed that enough of this student body could put their criticisms aside to unconditionally relish the social side of Wesleyan, making the complaints about our new center much more insignificant. Students, we’re here to graduate. That means we take classes with hopes to pass them we’re here to acquire knowledge and ‘some’ life skills, make a group of friends and then make inappropriate sexual advances on those friends. This is COLLEGE, not Guantanamo Bay.
Go ahead and enjoy our new coffee bar, our sushi chefs, and the flat screen computers, and remember to say “Thanks,” to all the employees serving us. Our needs to be fed and housed are the essential ones, and the University continues to provide those services. Our other “needs” remain exceptional ones, so take your criticisms and put them into something more useful: your homework, your sports team, your activism. I’ve heard my friends turn their words around slightly and turn Usdan into Sudan, which I guess is black humor. Save yourself some brain power, and put these complaints into a more productive force, and those calling the Usdan the Sudan should readily acknowledge that most of the world has complaints much more grave than ours.