SUNY Cortland as Corporation

by Reid McGrath, SUNY Cortland

Posted in on Wednesday, Nov 19

“I went to Rutgers from 1988 to 1992, a long time ago, but that was before colleges turned into corporations. It was madness. They hadn’t figured out yet to lock us down, and I swear to God that things were as crazy as they are now, but I was like, ‘Kids man, you have no fucking idea how over-patrolled you guys are.’"
Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize Winner.

To tell you the truth, I had a nice neat Thanksgiving- themed opinion piece, ready to be released from my brain and out into the world, only minutes earlier. I had attended one of those video screenings, which are apart of the Native American Film Series, and was going to question the morals and traditions behind our Anglo-Saxon celebration of thanks; the celebration we so jovially partake in on every fourth Thursday in November. Maybe that article will come in the next edition. Instead, I’ll rant.

If you were to look around you, in any American town, you might notice the progressive growth of large corporations and businesses. Wal-Mart, Home Depot—for you western New Yorkers—Wegmans, all seem to be out-competing and eventually demolishing any small, traditional, local stores and markets. Maybe capitalism is at fault, but colleges and universities are acting in the same manner, thriving off of profit making and efficiency. Look at Cortland: Rumors have been thrown to and fro about an escalation of tuition. They say our school is in debt, lots of debt. If that’s so, can someone please tell me why over the past two years, enormous construction operations have overtaken our small campus?

In my Sociology class, we talked about how McDonalds maintains a high level of efficiency by setting a standard, or a blueprint, and then having all of their employees follow this blueprint. This is why, when you stop for a bite at any Mickey Dees, you will see the cashier in the same uniform, serving the same french fries and quarter pounders, which all come in the same box and have the same amount of lettuce, tomato, or pickle on them. College is becoming like McDonalds in the sense that every person within a major will have almost an identical CAPP report. Diaz was right when he says we are over-patrolled. I went to sign up for classes today on the “MyReddragon” registrar’s page. After picking my classes, I was bombarded with Major restrictions and other kinds of educational bulwark. I was pissed; I am pissed. As students we are set on this path, assigned an advisor, and pushed ahead to a designated career. Boom, boom, boom, they move of us in and out, scooping up our tuition checks so they can build more buildings and put additions on Neubig, consequently scooping up more high school applications and starting the process all over again.

When Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz attended college he described the experience as “madness,” and that they “hadn’t figured out yet to lock us down,” but also claimed it to be “one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.” From my short experience at Cortland I can say that we are locked up, we are set in a mold that is hard to break out of. In my opinion, which this article is, colleges set us to their mold and claim that they are protecting us from the “madness,” in which Diaz speaks. They are protecting us from sex, drugs, and alcohol. But, what they don’t tell us is that by doing this we are becoming their little, formulated, student robots.

When we graduate and leave SUNY Cortland we will not be presented with an online homepage labeled “MyRealWorld,” that lays out schedules and job interviews. In the past, similar to a time when Diaz went to Rutgers, college students figured this stuff out for themselves. College was a transformation into the real world. By going to college you were given the choice of classes, to further your intellect by choosing courses that you thought had pertinence, and were interesting. Students weren’t pestered by guidance counselors or homely principals like they were in high school, to an extent that we are now. My teacher today mentioned that the average worker made more money in the middle to late twentieth century than the average worker does today. It doesn’t surprise me. In the past, students learned about life, not simply about their college agenda, and what GE’s needed to be completed. It was “madness,” yes, life is madness, but individual thought and challenges stirred great revolutions (I.E protests, Vietnam). Leaders were born and ordinary twenty-year olds changed America, and would go on to change the American work place that employed them.

I will leave you with a quotation from Thoreau’s Walden, where the author describes an ideal academic environment: “I mean that [students] should not play life, or study it merely,” and then goes on to say, “How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

You tell me, Cortland.

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