Have you ever heard someone say they just don't like Duke? Not a breathless, indignant Common Ground-style complaint, but just a plain old just-not-that-into-Duke confession?
I sure haven't, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Case in point: Last month, I had the unintentionally hilarious honor of serving on the committee to choose the student commencement speaker. (Lest our eventual choice murders me in my sleep, let me say he is funny, interesting and more than a little bit dorky.)
The real fun, though, was reading the other 29 applicants. Most appeared to have been written by the same team of monkeys on typewriters.
Insert: pithy anecdote about Alpine Bagels; two sentences about superficial diversity; something vaguely related to DukeEngage; at least one lame Oprah joke; a self-referential aside to the Shooters II cage.
All of these students-from different backgrounds, majors and social scenes-inadvertently distilled their "unique" experiences into the same, bland, gawd-I'm-going-to-miss-it-here mush. It was like reading a Duke Admissions brochure, minus the Photoshop.
After 29 of those speeches, even the most oh-shucks undergrad would be reaching for a noose. I (barely) survived, newly inspired to bring some perspective to the Duke experience.
No one wants to read 750 words of me calling out my soon-to-be alma mater, so I'll keep it brief: You've all been had. This University conditions you to want to love Duke-to need to love it. If you're not with us, you're against us.
I'm not saying that for some of us these past four years haven't been one extended orgasm. But with no offense intended to Messrs. Bierman, Dabaghi, Giordano and Kantha, the over-the-top hysterics of Duke-loving have gone too far.
It is time for a protest-and not a Duke-style protest either. No, I won't be taking back the night against the nefarious interest group that favors rape. Sorry, Dr. Moneta, but you can leave the rainbow tie at home-no 1,000 person breakfasts to "counter" two crazy family members preaching ludicrous fringe views about sexuality. Unlike the vast majority of activism at this University, there will actually be another side.
Our protest will be controversial. We'll take a stand and admit that, though Duke was a generally good ride, it wasn't necessarily all it could be.
Are we supposed to ignore that the undergraduate education in some departments is a laughingstock? That the Spanish department seems to hate students who want to learn Spanish? That the economics department works to reduce its number of majors-as if the vast majority of its students were interested in the discipline and not just a cubicle at a bank?
Is it so wrong to admit that if Duke was the best four years of my life, then I'm in for a very long-or perhaps just very short-existence?
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Even I'll admit that I'm far from innocent in the commoditization of our increasingly plastic, static Wonderland.
As a campus tour guide for three years, I've showed off the best of campus and overlooked the worst. I tell pre-frosh about the huge crowds at basketball games; I don't tell them that the most die-hard basketball fans are generally considered lepers and would have to lie about tenting to get into a preferred greek group.
I point to the LGBT Center and say "Look! We are diverse!" I don't ask the pre-frosh to find me two people of the same gender holding hands on campus, let alone at a general date function.
In short, I give them a shallow glance of Duke and sentence them to discover the rest upon matriculation.
To be sure, Duke is not all bad; in fact, all-in-all I had a great time. I value my degree. I love the reaction people get when I tell them I go here-and I love the internships I've received, largely because of our masterful public relations. Michael Schoenfeld: I owe you more than you know. There are far worse ways to spend ages 18 to 22.
But that's no reason to paste empty smiles onto our faces. There's nothing wrong with admitting to Duke that you're just not that into it-even after four years and $200,000. You won't hear that message at the Back-to-East party or at Myrtle. I, for one, won't have the courage to say it to you in person.
So I'm saying it now. If you're sitting at graduation, rolling your eyes at the masturbatory Duke-love on stage, look for me. Behind my glazed eyes and five-star smile, you might just find some truth.
Rob Copeland is a Trinity senior, former co-editor of Towerview and former features editor.