Outside Davidson Library, the wind picks up dirt from one of the nearby construction sites and flings it in the eyes of a handful of students who are attempting to unlock their bicycles and get home before the sun sets. In order to further modernize and monetize the campus — that is, to keep future donors and prospective students interested — the university must, from time to time, undertake significant renovations that may or may not still be in progress by the time current freshmen are expected to graduate and move on with their $50,000 worth of education four years from now. That the tenure of many current students will not extend long enough to see the final fruits of this construction is unfortunate, but serves in an inspirational way to demonstrate the dedication and school spirit present on this campus, according to the university.
Meanwhile, in the UCen, upwards of 20 students are trying to study in the lobby. A set of televisions overhead alternate between broadcasting popular contemporary music videos and paid advertisements at a volume at least two clicks above “distracting.” Students are informed that by sending an SMS message they may request which music video will next be broadcast across this room of studiers. Once in a while someone wonders if there is a code she can text to request John Cage’s “4’33,’’” or, for that matter, any length of silence. The thought crosses her mind that she would even be content to listen to commercials at five-minute intervals if only the time between them would be peaceful.
In a classroom 200 yards away (BEEP, BEEP), a group of 15 students are attempting (BEEP, BEEP) to discuss the centuries-old words of Andrew Marvell (BEEP, BEEP). As one of them reads a verse aloud, everyone in the room strains (BEEP, BEEP) to focus on the poetry as, just on the other side of the window (BEEP, BEEP) a dump truck is backing up from one place to another (BEEP, BEEP). None of the students are quite sure (BEEP, BEEP) what exactly is under construction. A new faculty/visitor parking lot perhaps? (BEEP, BEEP) They’ve already built several of those in the past few years, and the school (BEEP, BEEP) is suffering from budget cuts. Every student knows that times are (BEEP, BEEP) tough because the administration (BEEP, BEEP) constantly reminds them, and their tuition (BEEP, BEEP) has increased nearly 40 percent in the past two years (BEEP, BEEP). Somehow, for all of the classes that students find themselves forced to crash (BEEP, BEEP), and for all of the times they have to attend lectures so full (BEEP, BEEP) that some of them have no choice but to sit on the floor (BEEP, BEEP), the university has enough cash in its coffers to (BEEP, BEEP) repave roads, relay pipes, etc., or to do whatever (BEEP, BEEP) it is that they are doing. It has become a running joke (BEEP, BEEP) with those in this classroom that their school must not want them to study poetry (BEEP, BEEP) because they are fostering an environment which, to put it gently, is not conducive (BEEP, BEEP) to such endeavors as appreciating euphony, alliteration and all of those other things that don’t (BEEP, BEEP) bring in any money to the university.
There are discussions going on all over campus and all over California about the apparent apathy of students today. It’s true: A lot of the time, it doesn’t seem as if many people around here care about much besides getting a diploma, paycheck or stiff drink. There are lots of explanations offered for this sad lack of purpose: parties, pot, the media, whatever. No one is suggesting that students are in fact engaged at school, but what they are learning is that the dollar reigns supreme over everything, and what they actually study is not as important as the fact that they leave this place with a degree. When the state government, the UC Board of Regents and the local administrators all work in concert to create an atmosphere of noise and greed, how can anyone expect students to wholly believe in the power and potency of poetry, music, biology, physics or anything at all besides the Almighty Dollar? Students have been told all their lives that college will prepare them for the “real world,” so who can blame any of them for treating their academic careers the same way that those in charge do — as a means to an end, as an investment, as a lark.