For me, it is senior year. Finally! Already? As the rsums are rolling through the printers at CLARC, students voice ominous complaints and worries about the ?real world? more frequently. I wonder what ?real world? means to them? Why do people not want to go there? Why have people insulated themselves from it for the past four years?
We should avoid, at all costs, slipping into that old clich and for good reason. To subscribe to that belief reflects poorly on the life we have chosen to lead on campus. It implies minimal investment, emotional or otherwise, toward our participation in the UR community. It implies complete isolation from the very real problems that face members of our community five minutes away. It indicates that we have chosen not to pay attention, much less get involved, in the hundreds of opportunities to fight for social justice, form opinions, consider environmental crises and mull over significant ethical issues.
I am aware that I am very fortunate to be here. I will not speak for others, but I try very hard not to take for granted that I have the opportunity to be educated and to learn in an environment of my own making, where free exchange of ideas is encouraged and where the potential for personal cultivation is limitless. For four years I studied here, got involved here, fell in love here, became a better leader here and hopefully became a better person here. I know that I am fortunate, but if the price of my enrollment was that UR hid me away from the world and all its problems for four years, my university education is no privilege.
Out there, in the ?real world,? people struggle, people win and people die. But inside our borders, between the river and the cemetery, the same things are happening. It may be possible to deceive ourselves, because many of us undertake college with almost complete self-absorption and the belief that things are different between ?here? and the ?real world.?
But not all are deceived ? many students on this campus are also critical of the old clich about the ?real world.?
For people who do service, champion their causes and pay attention to people?s lives other than their own, there is no confusion about whether this world, the one they live in as UR students, is real. Because these students are in an intense relationship with the university, the Rochester community, national news and global issues, they are aware of the ?reality? of their effort and their potential to create change.
UR finds the balance of its school spirit in issues that extend beyond this university like the No-Sweat Campaign, death penalty speakers, the Community Service Network, grassroots organizations, Safe Zone trainers, College Republicans and Democrats, the Community Learning Center, the Tiernan Project, religious movements for social change, activist speakers and on and on and on. The opportunities for us to realize the ?real world? are incredibly frequent, often free and potentially transformative.
To mean that we do not live in the ?real world? would escalate the divide between the college-educated and the uneducated by eliminating the possibility of relationship between the two. It would require friendships that ignored the stories of hometowns, family tragedy or political situations.
It would render useless the efforts of so many people to create events that encourage social awareness. It would discourage us from getting involved ? or even interested ? in any cause outside of a traditional education. Clearly, though, people do not mean that UR is not the ?real world.? So why the clich persists bewilders me.
In six months time from when I write this my class will be alumni. They will then be turned into the ?real world.? The question of what they will do will have many answers. But if they claim to have avoided the ?real world? for the last four years of their life without even thinking what that meant, what kind of adults can they be?
Hall is a columnist and a member of the Class of 2001.