School Politics

United we vent.

United we vent.

Random Observation/Comment #113: I have always thought that my years of suffering through all those Cooper classes, which were flooded with assignments, exams, and projects, was directly related to our student body’s inability to argue for rights (either that, or our professors’ pretending we’re only registered for their course).  Due to recent events at Cooper, I saw that these students are not a least bit spineless towards authority, or a pushover conformist.  These engineers just have an incredible work ethic and an annoying quality of overachieving.  It’s not a bad quality, unless you’re struggling to keep up in the bell curve, but I’m glad they are applying their knowledge of fundamental freedoms and standing firm against injustices.

I am not necessarily disappointed at Cooper because I truly believe that the persons making this decision had good intentions in mind.  They wanted students to approach problems with a well-rested mind. Studies (and extensive personal experience) show that productivity significantly drops when you’re exhausted from caffeine-withdraw and sleep deprivation.  Plus, those struggling to stay away shouldn’t be trusted to operate any machinery without supervision; it would escalate the issue legally, and that’s completely understandable from a business point of view.  It sounds only reasonable to close the school down from 2AM to 6AM for the students to cool off and get some fresh air, right? Hmm…

Unfortunately, the administration did not think about the consequences of this action (most probably didn’t expect such an explosive reaction), nor did they consult the opinions of the students before changing the rules and singling out players.  We were all promised 24-hour access since the beginning of the year, and they release news two weeks before finals going directly against that promise.  In addition, the overnight passes signed by professors were revoked.  These passes represented the professor’s personal vouches for the student’s maturity and safe use of all equipment.  Besides, most of the students using this access are only using licensed software on computers and studying in groups or quiet places.

The worse part of the policy, which really made an already simmering pot boil, was this implicit differentiation between the rights of artists and architects, and the rights of engineers.  In order to adhere to the agreement of some (3) of the artists working in the studios in the engineering building, the email was worded in a way that sounded like the work of the Art and Architecture schools were more important than that of the Engineering.  Even though this may have not been their intention, their words clearly offended all of the engineering students and a large number of faculty.

The art and architecture deans or professors that made their requests somehow magically made a big enough defense to have their 24-hour access granted to their privileged students.  Across the street (literally), even the assistant dean that made the promise to all the engineering students had no pull.  The engineering professors who hand-pick their responsible students are completely ignored and undermined.  Does this mean that the professors in one school are better than the professors at another?  If the administration isn’t even addressing the professors’ needs, then who do we, as the students, have to ask for assistance in furthering our education?  If the administration can’t talk to all students to get a fully democratic opinion, shouldn’t they trust the professors that they hired to give some constructive feedback?  I find it all too ironic that the students pulling the all-nighters and showing their devotion to their studies are the ones that are being punished.

Personally, if the incident passed without this inter-school issue, I would have found a way to work at home and convince myself to the same conclusions that the administration suggested (that sleep is good).  One minor overlooked detail might be the fact that kicking me out at 2AM is the equivalent of cutting my pockets so I drop a trail of change behind me while I take a 1.5 hour commute back to Long Island.  Cooper is a commuter school, and there are those that already fear for their lives in broad daylight getting home on that G train (where the hell does that go, anyway?).  It would have been better if I could make my own choice, though.  It’s always nice to have that mommy take care of you and wash the dishes after cooking you breakfast, but once she starts enforcing restrictions on how much sleep we need and how much time we spend on each subject, hell is going to break loose (I don’t understand why a 21-year-old can’t make his own decision to wake up early and watch cartoons).  It was really a thoughtful gesture, Mom, but I got it under control.

If the administration asked the student council and maintained a fair democracy in all the policies that directly influence the students, they would have heard our immediate objections – oh wait, they were all conveniently halfway across the world.  So, instead of any discussion with those who passed the decision, a room of approximately 150 very angry engineering students vented to our assistant dean.  I almost felt bad for him getting stuck in the middle as a messenger wearing a red coat with a target painted on the back of his head.  I sat there in the midst and saw the fervor of rights-seeking individuals, drawn together by a common goal.  It built up a lot of emotions that I didn’t consider without being in that place at that moment.  I felt like I started as a spectator watching a boxing match, but I somehow got pulled up as one of the boxers.  In fact, I think half the people willingly took-up the spotlight and started a battle royal.

Regardless of my opinion of the administration, I am definitely proud of the young men and women that literally make the school’s experience.  I went to this school because of the selective student body and their dynamic range of personalities, and this unfortunate event made me realize that these are exceptional people.  They are mature and they will all change the world in their own way.  The school should exist for the students – not the other way around (well probably a little bit, but that’s not as convincing).  Please respect us.

~See Lemons shake his head in dismissive disapproval