Ignoring Similarities Insults My Intelligence

Once upon a time I visited the University of Antwerp.  Here’s a picture from while I was on the move:

It looks just like an American college.

The ivy is dead.  Too bad…

If I hadn’t told you the school’s location, you might not have identified its location.  Actually, it looks like a lot of American campuses, except they obviously don’t spend exorbitant sums on landscaping.

When you’re traveling, don’t just pass through the things that look like the same old boring thing from home.  You can learn a lot by noticing the similarities in different countries.

By the same token, you can also learn from the differences in things that look the same.  For example, McDonald’s sells beer in Germany.


College Fundraising Insults My Intelligence

In one of my first posts, I slammed a college fundraiser for the buffoonish tactics she used when asking me for money.  To refresh your memory, I went to graduate school at a university that costs undergraduates upwards of $45,000 per year… or is it $55,000 by now?  The institution possesses an enormous financial reserve while thousands of suckers graduate with enormous debt every year.

But hooray!  Financial aid comes to the rescue!

Unbeknownst to many students (and their checkbook-wielding parents), colleges have borrowed a marketing tactic from retailers.  Raise prices through the roof, let those high prices make people believe that those prices mean higher quality, and offer discounts to make people think they’re getting a deal… all while soaking the poor saps who pay full price.

And then come the fundraisers who want to pull your heartstrings out with a pitchfork.  Those poor students!  So many of them are on financial aid and they need your help to make it through.  Let our tuition marketing scheme fool you into thinking your donation will make a difference in their lives.  And listen to the stories of some especially needy students who could never have afforded our artificially inflated prices without the markdowns we had budgeted for anyway.

So give us money, dammit.  The psychologically manipulated student body will remain forever grateful.

(Sadly, that last line is probably true.)

I’ll close with a second reminder.  I did my bachelor’s at a large public university and my graduate work at the prestigious University of Money.  While I can’t complain about my experiences at the U. of M., I don’t see how the undergraduate education offered there exceeded what I got at my other, more lowly alma mater.

School Spirit Insults My Intelligence

I did my undergraduate work in an honors program at a large public university and I can’t complain about the experience.  However, the school’s culture emphasized its sports teams.  I’ve never been much of a sports fan but the great thing about a huge college is that it accommodates a wide variety of people.  Of course, that wide variety of people is supposed to spend its money on football tickets (and college-branded t-shirts and hoodies and caps and vanity license plates and flags and giant spongy pointing hands and umbrellas and oversize insulated mugs and shotglasses) and then fill the generously sized stadium.

The insulated mugs are for coffee, of course.  It helps you stay awake through the entire football game.  However, some of us didn’t center our college experience around a beverage of choice and the university had to cater to us too.

Maryland Terrapins beat Wake Forest - College ...

(Photo credit: Mrs. Gemstone)

And so the university offered over a dozen summer orientation sessions and I attended the one for honors students.  And in addition to the academic information and campus tour, the program included an introduction to school spirit.  The orientation leaders, as part of an evening performance, gathered on stage to mock our school’s athletic rivals one by one and they eventually came to the highly selective school with strong engineering programs.  So one orientation leader stepped forward and, pretending to be a student from that school, started squawking “physics, math, and chemistry!  I got 3000 on the SAT.”  Again and again and again.

Let’s see how many things we can find wrong with that:

1-  They were making fun of smart people at an orientation program directed at smart people.  Of course, the audience’s school spirit skyrocketed as a result.

2- They were implicitly denigrating the quality of education our college offers, which is significant because their audience didn’t choose the college because of its football team.  (Before you get angry about that comment, research has shown that a football team’s successful season correlates with an increase in applications for enrollment the following year.)

3- They were implying that athletes and sports fans are stupid.  That’s not a very nice thing to say about athletes.  (I already established in point 2 that at least some sports fans lack intelligence.)

And, as though to demonstrate against the stereotype of smart people possessing fewer social skills than “normal” people, we did not boo our orientation leaders off the stage, throw food at them, or otherwise mock them for their cluelessness.

At least not to their faces.

College Fundraisers Insult My Intelligence

I finished my bachelor’s at a public university that has been experiencing budgetary shortfalls in recent years.  I did my graduate work at a fabulously wealthy private university and I haven’t found a job yet.  Although the poorer university has more legitimate reasons to doggedly solicit potential donors in the spirit of eternal friendship, the people working there clearly possess common sense and behave themselves.  Today’s post is a tale of the latter school.

So, my friends at the University of Money’s development office come calling again (and again and again) seeking funds.    Even though I’m unemployed, they seem to have this strange idea that I’m somehow a potential large-sum donor who just needs to be reminded of his alma mater’s glory to make the dollars flow.

Love is in the air and all that crap.

And so I mention that my undergraduate institution provides superior job search assistance to alumni while the wealthy school offers virtually none.  I’m told that the career office is understaffed at wealthy university and I could swear that a lack of funds was implied.  But later, I’m supposed to be inspired by the multimillion dollar student activity building (or something like that) they just built.  The building, from that I can tell, is fun and sexy and that’s why it’s important.  Everybody’s happy now on campus and that should make me happy too, I suppose.  The conversation closes with her commenting that “at least you got a first-rate education.”

Well then, please, let me bounce you a check, o mighty University of Money.

After all, your minion got her script right.  She mentioned important programs that need more money (which, to me, reflects misplaced priorities in allocating funds), the luxurious new building (which seems frivolous to those of us without jobs or with huge student loans), and the quality of education (which she seems to have forgotten because she’s treating me like a moron).

But I digress.  What we have here is a fundraising professional (not a work-study student) whose job is to convince the unemployed that their money is more appropriately housed in the university’s overflowing coffers.   Let’s review: if I don’t have an income, where exactly does she expect the donation to come from?  And how did she get a job that requires at least a second grade understanding of finance? 

“Little Johnny has zero dollars.  If he gives Mrs. Davis six dollars, how many dollars does Little Johnny have left?”  You never saw that word problem in second grade because even second graders know it’s idiotic.