Sure, UCSB is a party school, but save for BYU, what university isn’t? I hate clichés almost as much as Sarah Palin supporters, but I’d be lying if I tried to argue that most UCSB students don’t party. At the same time, labeling the behavior of this school as one of a kind is both ignorant and asinine. Yes, UCSB students know how to have fun, relax on the beach, and throw back a few – or often a few too many – beers.
Surprisingly enough, students tend to drink. A lot. According to a 2007 report by the Office of the Surgeon General, roughly 40 percent of college students binge drink. If you take into consideration the fact that Isla Vista is more alcohol-friendly than most college communities, 40 percent seems low. That said, after three years at this school, and many shameless nights behind me, I in no way feel that I’m living in the cesspool of drunkenness, STDs and debauchery that many abhorrent outsiders persistently envision.
A month ago, I was out at dinner seated next to an aged man in a wheelchair. We struck up some casual conversation, and eventually he asked me where I went to school. When I answered UC Santa Barbara, he just looked at me with a wry smile, clearly perturbed. “That place is a playground,” he said dryly.
“Life’s a playground,” I responded curtly. He didn’t offer a response.
The lesson learned from this abrasive appraisal of UCSB is one that I believe resonates with many students at this school. For whatever reason – be it the notoriety of Isla Vista, the legacy of self-glorifying Playboy articles, or sensationalized anecdotes from alumni – this school has managed to garner a reputation based solely around booze, out-of-control parties and – this one was new to me – a playground. I relish the parties, the subsequent tomfoolery, and the laissez-faire lifestyle UCSB breeds. It’s these attributes, among others, that make this school so welcoming. But with complete sincerity, I’m entirely proud of the educational opportunities this university has afforded me. There have been many classes I slept through, and many professors whose names I forgot after throwing out the syllabus. On the other hand, there have been classes that changed my entire outlook on life, and professors whose intellect and passion for teaching have inspired me both as a student and a human being. Are there as many professors at UCSB that lead in their respected field as there are at UC Berkeley? I doubt it. Does this mean they aren’t as dedicated and ready for the job? If anything, the professors here – most of whom live for what they do, and not their paycheck – are less jaded and more in touch with their students, which in turn fosters a better learning process.
Of course, this all implies that we actually attend class, or care about our education. We aren’t just dicking around on the swing set all day. I can’t speak for the whole student body, but I’m here to have the most fun, memorable four years of my life. At the same time, when I need to put down the Natty and pick up my book, I will, because at the end of the day I want that A, and I don’t want to snort 3 milligrams of Adderall to get it (see: Berkeley).
I admit Halloween is ridiculous, but until we get a football team (which sadly will never happen) no one can judge us on drunken idiocy. All it takes is one visit to a school with a football team to witness the mild retardation that exists in any college kid, whether he’s an Aztec or a Golden Bear. What they call “Game Day” revolves around the consumption of as much alcohol as possible, hours before the coin gets tossed. On one visit up to Berkeley, I witnessed a middle-aged doctor using a beer bong, and two guys on a balcony trying to pour a pitcher of Coors Light into the mouth of a girl below. Now, I don’t want to sound condescending here, because I do love hot girls and beer. I just want to clarify that drunken fools exist everywhere. Even at – gasp! – Berkeley.
Cal might not ever be deemed a party school and that’s fine, because it’ll keep the more attractive girls coming here in the future. I can only hope that one day people outside the realm of UCSB will get their heads out of their asses and realize we’re all in this game together, just trying to get by, get drunk, and enjoy these short four years of bliss.