As students, we complain a lot. We complain about a lack of parking spots. We complain about too much homework. We complain about food and ARAMARK. And, the favorite way to do it seems to be to insert a complaint along with the phrase “I pay $35,000 a year to go to this school.”

Sometimes it seems like we complain to complain. Don’t get me wrong – in the last four years I’ve done my fair share.

But, regardless of our idle complaints, looking back on it all, we really have had it pretty good.

When we first came to campus we heard a lot from respective administrators about the beauty of the Rochester experience. We also were told by Dean Burgett about how college was like a fiery furnace and we would emerge after four years changed forever by the experience.

So, what did we learn about the Rochester experience? We learned that it was one where we could determine our own fate, decide on our own majors and classes, without requirements. We had the academic freedom to decide on what our interests were. None of us had to sit through a required gym course or if we didn’t like math – God knows I can’t stand it – we didn’t have to take it.

That academic freedom has given many of you the opportunity to study abroad, have first class internship opportunities, and gotten a lot of you into great graduate schools across the country.

But, in the end, college isn’t really about academics. It is more about who you’ve become because of your time here. I’ve sure found it pretty hot in the furnace and Burgett was right, none of us will be the same after our time here.

From D-Day to MELA, late nights in CLARC to Saturdays on the Fraternity Quad – we’ve all lived it first hand. There are so many things that each of you have experienced individually that I can’t mention here, but don’t forget those times. Those are what matter.

For me, it was not sleeping Wednesdays putting out the Campus Times. It was eating at Jay’s at four a.m. with Dean Green and a couple of friends after finishing our research study. It was having dinner at a professor’s house and hearing about her crush on Michael Jordan.

Simply, we’ve survived the heat and we’re better because of it.

A friend of mine once said to me while I was sitting at the Senior Class gift drive table, “Why should I give back to the university? What has it given me?”

The simple answer is that this university has given every member of the class of 2003 a lot – from academics, to friends to wonderful life experiences.

Look in the mirror. For better of for worse, you owe a large part of who you are to the university and what you’ve chosen to get involved with in the past four years.

Don’t forget it. Stay involved with your alma mater in whatever way suits you best and that doesn’t necessarily mean giving back millions of dollars. What it does mean is being an active and involved alum. Attend regional events, make the drive back to Rochester for D-Day and Meliora Weekend, be a part of the UR Involved program and interview perspective students. Be a part of correcting those things you’ve spent a good deal of time in the past four years complaining about.

Why? Selfishly, making UR better will improve the quality and value of your degree. Unselfishly, because you owe that to this place that has given you so much.

Hildebrandt can be reached at

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An open letter to all members of any university community

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