Posts Tagged 'partying'

Work Hard, Play Hard, Enjoy Neither

Si Rutherford

Apparently, for prospective students, Middlebury is presented as a ‘work hard, play hard’ institution. We know what this means: there is a near-overwhelming amount of reading assigned every week for the majority of classes, and if students are expected to maintain a hold on their studies, they must dedicate a significant amount of time to this pursuit. When the weekend hits, therefore, students let themselves ‘play’ in an equally intense fashion in the short space of time that they are allowed. From a personal perspective, striving for real conversation in an environment that is seemingly not conducive to such a thing has helped me start to develop an understanding of Middlebury College. I want to learn something new from everyone I meet, but most importantly, I want to know whether students here are genuinely happy at Middlebury College – especially with regards to the philosophy of “work hard, play hard.”

First of all, let me say this: Middlebury students are brilliant. They are talented, intelligent, healthy, and full of potential. Unfortunately, this potential is rarely achieved, and it could be argued that the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality is to blame. A conversation I once had with a sharp-minded senior highlighted this issue. I was told how often she has heard students make incredibly insightful and remarkably intellectual comments in class, but then as soon as they leave the classroom environment they talk about lowest-common-denominator issues such as partying.

How many lunch-time conversations have been continuations of a discussion regarding the merits of existentialist philosophies, or environmental challenges? How many new friendships are forged because of stimulating dialogue about the possibilities of social change? The unfortunate fact is that there are few incentives for students to engage in extra-curricular intellectual activity; academic studies are made systematic, time-consuming and unrewarding, and students are pushed to the limit throughout the year. If a Midd Kid has 200 pages of literature coupled with two chapters of biochemistry reading to do for the next morning, it is unsurprising that little intellectual satisfaction is achieved from overcoming such a menacing obstacle. Finishing at 3:30 am only brings relief at the eventual promise of sleep, rather than deep reflections on the previously undiscovered viewpoints that the individual has absorbed. We should be able to enjoy the things we study; we should be appreciating and recognizing the things we are learning.

Middlebury College has some astonishingly sharp minds leading its faculty, so surely this valuable resource should be harnessed for all of its worth. Ultimately, my argument comes down to this: There needs to be more time for free intellectual development – for the sake of the sanity and general humanity of the young adults attending this institution. Perhaps this is just my personal opinion, but I do not think a liberal arts college, or university, or any academic institution should merely be a vehicle for turning each student into a machine.

In actual fact, Middlebury College life in general is very systematic, not only in the educational sphere, but in the social sphere as well. We party like machines when the weekend comes, maximizing the precious time we have by getting as far away from the intense work-oriented week as possible, and we do this the way we are told is best – through alcohol. Whether one supports the party scene or not, it is not difficult to understand it. Nevertheless, it is a dangerous game to be playing, sometimes involving frightening amounts of alcohol use and behavior that could not even be conceived of outside of a college campus. A Middlebury student disappeared – and if the rumors are true, drinking played a hand in the events surrounding it. But has it burst the bubble? Apparently not. We are all safe little creatures that wake and read and nap and eat and consume and forget and do it all over again.

The mechanical nature of on-campus activities can be witnessed in hobbies and interests that lie in between the realms of academic work and partying. This is most obvious within sports, but also seen in other activities such as music groups, theatre, dance, etc. It is difficult to truly enjoy the activities we have chosen to participate in when most conversations will sooner or later involve the phrase “I have so much work to do.” Every night is a consideration of what can be achieved in the hour between the gym and dinner, or before we have to begin the paper that will take us to the early hours of the morning.

Extending the arguments further, it is worth considering the ongoing discussion (largely criticism) of the dating scene on campus, and how the consensus is that it is effectively just a hook-up scene. One could argue that this is just another product of the Midd machine. In between juggling an enormous amount of reading, going to dance rehearsals, attending guest lectures, and finally making it to the Tavern party, how can we possibly fit in time for dating? So we don’t. Dating becomes just another systematized part of the social life; because Midd kids have no time to get to know one another and form the foundations for a meaningful relationship, they hook up when they are drunk on a Friday or Saturday night. Even the sex here is systematic.

Undoubtedly, this is a quintessentially American phenomenon, driven by the ideals of individualism and efficiency. These sentiments inevitably have consequences for the activities that go on within the confines of Middlebury and how the people here experience them. What is clear is that there is an obvious cause and effect on display: work hard = play hard. Of course, this is not a new revelation, but for Middlebury students it has important implications. For these talented, intelligent students, it is a virtually inescapable pattern, and one that cannot lead to a truly fulfilled college experience. It is important to understand, however, that all aspects of campus life are inexorably intertwined. We cannot criticize and wish to change the limited social scene without addressing the demanding realities of academic work. Studying has ceased to be a source of personal development, and is instead a means of achieving the ends (whether that is an A grade or a good career). Time socializing on the weekends is focused more on breaking free of the mechanical schedule, rather than embracing a meaningful and fulfilling interaction with peers. Ironically, getting drunk on a Friday night is in fact just as much part of the machinery of a Midd student as the homework, and this fact bluntly presents an issue worth taking note of: when even the partying is systematic, there is something fundamentally disturbing going on.

So we return to the initial concern: are students at Middlebury College genuinely happy? Obviously, this is not a question easily answered. I just hope that we are not merely undertaking a four year exercise in time management, and that we will emerge at the end as more than mere machines that will fit perfectly into society. We are creative, intellectual beings, and should have more time and space to develop as such. The sooner that Middlebury recognizes this fact, the sooner the College can provide future students with a more desirable and fulfilling college experience.

Shut the Hell Up and Do Your Work, You Spoiled Nincompoops

Tristan Axelrod

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I have a problem with you, the Middlebury student body. Far too many of you are insufferable whiners with no integrity, and I am sick of listening to your crap while you devalue my college experience and belittle the opportunities offered by this amazing institution.

First off, stop asking for extensions on every assignment. There are only four reasons why extensions should be granted: the professor didn’t grant enough time, or didn’t explain the assignment properly, or the student had an illness, or a family emergency occurred. There are no other valid reasons: if you have two weeks to write a paper and are suddenly too hung over to write the paper on Sunday afternoon 12 hours before it’s due, it is your own damn fault. The same goes for tests: when the time limit is up, you’re done. You shouldn’t get to sit for an extra 15 minutes that weren’t granted to you. And why not? Because there’s something called a grading system: it’s a sort of ranking/appraisal thingy that theoretically rewards people who complete their work according to the established guidelines. When some people actually follow the guidelines, they should be rewarded, and when other people don’t, they should be punished, all according to the system, because that’s why it exists.

It’s like government: I’m not advocating a totalitarian university dominated by professors, but rather the compassionately meritocratic oligarchy that Middlebury claims to be. If you would like to take part in such a society, then you should have the integrity to accept the consequences put forth by professors if you can’t handle the workload you’ve taken upon yourself. Or maybe you prefer to be coddled: it’s your choice, but at least be honest about it, and don’t pretend you have a right to be excepted from the rules. You chose your courses, clubs, sports, and God knows, your drinking habits, so if you just can’t do it all and get all A’s, you have to accept it.

Speaking of drinking habits, if you aren’t 21 years old, drinking alcohol is illegal. As in, you have no right to do it. Is that unjust? Probably, yes. So what do you do if a law is unjust? You protest, speak out, and attempt to enlighten and engage the political community in any way possible. If you don’t care enough to stand up and do what’s right, you have to deal with the reality of the law. I shouldn’t have to remind you that most communities are not as insulated as Middlebury College; only a very fragile and nonsensical tradition of non-interference stands between us and open patrols by the Middlebury Police Department. The same goes for marijuana—take a look at the average prison sentence for marijuana possession and distribution for minorities vs. whites, and check out the economic distribution as well. We live in a veritable Bacchanalian paradise of legal immunity, so stop whining about the liquor inspector.

On a related note, there would be hardly any problems with MCPS, MPD, or the liquor inspector if people didn’t find it necessary to get ridiculously drunk in order to have a good time. Here’s a tip: if you like the people around you, alcohol is never necessary. If you need to get trashed so that you can feel confident dancing, talking, or having sex, it’s a sign of deep-seated emotional problems. And do you really think things will ever get better by continuing to abuse your body this way? My biggest point is this: if you destroy property or damage people physically or emotionally while inebriated, you are a piece of garbage.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to need or request an extension, complain about the liquor inspector, or drink heavily. There are obviously appropriate times and places for each. The issue here is integrity: people need to take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences. Relative to the ‘real world’ outside of our waspy, upper class, ivory tower communities and backgrounds, this is a pretty much unparalleled utopia— a bastion of intellectual and legal leniency, liberalism, and instant gratification. For some reason, you as a Middlebury student have been given these four years here, and will be further rewarded by the institution with political and economic connections and opportunities throughout your life. All I’m saying is, stop acting like you were born deserving it, and at least pretend that you’re worth it.

The Red House Behind RAJ: What We Do and Why Midd Neds Us

Michelle Personick

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Recently, there has been a vast amount of discussion on campus about social houses, drinking and drugs, and their effects on social life at Midd. So what about the group that deals with both categories? That’s where Xenia comes in.

Xenia is the “sub-free social house.” However, that doesn’t mean that none of our members drink. While there are some members who don’t drink at all, a large portion of the membership and people who hang out at the house drink socially and go to parties where alcohol is served. A member once described Xenia as being a place for people who enjoy alcohol, but don’t want it to be a part of their living arrangements on campus, for themselves or the people they live with. The goal of Xenia is to make the sub-free lifestyle a visible and viable option by bringing together sub-free people across campus. Commons sub-free housing is mostly scattered, with single halls or even half halls of sub-free students. For this reason, one of the best features of Xenia is the way in which it creates strong friendships between people who span the entire range of class years and commons affiliations.

One of the most difficult things about being sub-free at Midd is that people don’t realize exactly how many people are sub-free. There is an array of definitions of “sub-free,” ranging from people who don’t drink at all to people who simply choose not to make alcohol the focus of their social lives. A result of the hidden nature of the sub-free social life is that sometimes people who consider themselves to be entirely or mostly sub-free feel like there is nothing going on around campus other than parties with alcohol. What they don’t see is that on any given night there are people all over campus who are hanging out and doing something that doesn’t involve alcohol. At Xenia we try to provide that option.

The questions that are often posed are “How does being sub-free affect your social life?” and “Do sub-free people have any fun?” As the president of the sub-free social house, I would say my life isn’t really that different. I spend weekends hanging out with my friends, having parties, watching sports games in a huge crowd of people, or playing video games.

Xenia comes from a Greek word meaning “hospitality.” Anyone who comes to Xenia is welcomed as a guest, but no one remains a stranger for very long. The members and friends of the house become a family. They hang out together both inside and outside of the house and house events, look out for each other, and even cook home-style meals together once a week.

Making the sub-free lifestyle visible is vital to its survival. It is necessary for people who chose to be sub-free to realize that they are not alone and most likely not even a small minority. If there is no central acknowledgment of sub-free living, it will become more and more hidden until sub-free people become so isolated that being sub-free will become an almost untenable option. Xenia provides an example of a viable form of sub-free living.

Intellectual Snobbery

Jeff Klein

You know what really gets on my nerves? The intellectual snobs at Middlebury. Those who feel the need to continually tell people about the 75-page thesis they are currently writing. Those who will bust out a comment like, “I completed 15 pages of my paper earlier, but now I’m being totally unproductive. I have to get back to work.” Those who look down upon people that choose to go out and have a good time on Friday and Saturday nights (and Wednesdays, if you go to Wednesday Night Beirut). Hey, relax. There’s nothing wrong with chilling out and having some fun every once in a while. Of course, work is important; we wouldn’t be at Middlebury if we didn’t feel that way. But there’s more to life than work, and if you don’t feel that way, you’re missing out.

The Dangers of an Overworked Student Body

Grace Duggan

Earlier in the semester I attended the town hall meeting regarding homophobia at Middlebury. A number of students, professors, and faculty members showed up to the McCullough Social Space, but quite a few chairs were empty, and the majority of individuals who showed up were not students. One professor asked the audience, “Where are all the students?” Rather than ask the students where their peers were, the professor at the town hall meeting should have asked her peers, “Are we partly to blame?”

Middlebury prides itself on having a student body comprised of well-rounded individuals. But in an environment full of over-achievers, the vast majority of the student body does not have much in the way of free time. Students juggle classes, homework, jobs, sports, music, clubs, plays and a slew of other activities. When you factor in all of the lectures, screenings, and talks open to the student body each week, it is no wonder that few students showed up to the meeting. There were several other events scheduled at the same time as this town hall meeting, including one with a similar subject matter. Also, the meeting was held at 4:30, when a significant portion of the student body was heading off to team practices. We are all overbooked, and we live in an environment that encourages this kind of scheduling.

Merilee Jones, the former dean of admissions at M.I.T., was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying that our generation is “the most anxious, sleep-deprived, steeped-in-stress, judged, tested, poorly nourished generation.” Students rush from one commitment to the next, study late into the night, try to let off steam on weekends, and generally burn the candle at both ends. If the college likes a student body full of well-rounded individuals, then why does it continue to endorse a notoriously heavy workload, often to the detriment of the health of the student body?
More than once I have been told that it is not the job of the professor to make the student’s life easier. At the same time, it is not the job of the professor to encourage an environment overflowing with stress. We cannot deal with issues affecting our community if we do not have time to be a community in the first place.