Our school could beat up your school

If you look at any other page in The Signal this week, you probably won’t get a very positive image of the College. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and it’s our job as journalists to find the squeaks.

So I’m going to take a break from the “impartial” journalist attitude and give you my opinion of the College. Despite all of the problems we report on, I think the College really is good enough to be called “The Public Ivy.”

The first thing you consider when looking at any college has to be the education; I think the College deserves top merits in this category. In high school I studied because I had to learn the material; here I study because I want to learn it.

Instead of focusing on memorization and cookie-cutter answers, courses at the College focus on understanding and experience. My Catholicism professor doesn’t want me to remember exact Bible verses; he wants me to learn how to analyze religious works in the context in which they were written.

Ivy schools have a reputation for having prestigious and highly educated faculty, but I think the College could give any of them a run for their money.

My professional writing professor has already published five novels on a variety of topics and is just finishing his sixth. He used to work for NASA and was the youngest man to ever put a satellite into space.

The College only hires professors who have obtained the terminal degree in their field, ensuring that only the best are in front of our chalkboards. This was just one of the dynamic people I’ve had grading my papers, and I expect I’ll meet a lot more in my next two years here.

The next most important thing when choosing a College is the activities and clubs it has to offer; this is another category where the College excels. We have all of the usual clubs like student government, sports clubs, Greek organizations and political groups, but we also have so much more than the ordinary.

For sports we have such oddities as dodgeball, fencing and road racing; dancing groups like swing dancing and ballroom dancing; we even have an official manhunt club. For politics we have the Progressive Student Alliance, the Libertarians and even a Socialist club. I used to think socialism was extinct, like Latin or the Dodo bird.

Read the “Eye on SGA” article every week in The Signal; new clubs are being approved every week. And if the College still doesn’t brew your cup of tea, make it yourself; starting a new club on campus is easy enough for anyone to do.

This leads to another important aspect of a college: diversity. If there were no varying opinions in this discourse we call learning, everything we learned would be in plain old black and white.

I’m personally involved with the religious diversity on campus, helping to coordinate events among the many Christian groups, the two Jewish clubs and the Islamic Society. We also have a number of new religious groups on campus. I covered both the debut of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the new Buddhism meditation group.

The College is not far behind the Ivy schools in ethnic diversity, despite people’s complaints about “all-white TCNJ.” According to collegeboard.com, Princeton is 60 percent white and the College is 64 percent white. Princeton has a slightly higher percentage (two to three percentage points) of black and Asian students, while the College has 4 percent more Hispanic students than Princeton.

Then we reach the biggest divider among people: economic differences. One thing the Ivy schools all have in common is insanely high tuition rates. These ensure that only the richest students can get into Ivy’s, preserving an elitist atmosphere based on wealth. Higher education should be based on ability and performance, not wallet size.

Students at the College live and learn with people from all kinds of financial backgrounds, from the inner city to gated communities. Sheltered Princeton students get a very narrow and unrealistic view of the world in their $48,000-a-year dorms. When I tutored underprivileged kids in Trenton I worked alongside students from Princeton, and none of them had any idea how to relate to, or help, the poor students.

Another highlight is the College’s campus, even if construction is a bit unsightly right now. When we return next year the lake will be filled, the pipes will be in and we’ll all be in Eden again.

And please, lay off the food complaints everyone. Yes, it’s repetitive. You try cooking for 4,000 people a day. From what I’ve seen and heard, our food is better than most colleges.

What really makes the difference, though, is the people. Take away the buildings and burgers, the classes and costs and you are left with a group of truly amazing people. President Gitenstein works far harder than is expected to meet our needs. And despite the freeze on pay increases, our professors are still there for us day and night to help us reach our potential. Most importantly, students at the College aren’t so damn stuck up.

To be honest, I think calling our school the “Public Ivy” is a slight. The College doesn’t rob its students with exorbitant tuition fees. It doesn’t maintain a 90 percent rejection rate to boost its average SAT scores. We are not an Ivy, and we should be proud of that.

We should be proud to be learning in a meritocracy, not an aristocracy. We should be grateful that our faculty is so loyal to our school and that they are here for us, not for the money. We should hold our heads high when we tell people where we go, and know that we are among the most educated, the most diverse and the most compassionate people of our generation.

You could call us the Public Ivy, and we would certainly live up to the name. But I don’t want to fill those shoes; if you ask me, we’ll leave bigger footprints on our own.