Arbiter Elegantiarum

Cory Schneider

What is Washington University in the age of iPods, reality television and Paris Hilton? What was it ever? Well, when I first visited the school during my senior year of high school, I remember remarking to my mother how oddly thin and “normal” all of the students appeared to be. But, then, I had visited during spring reading week, so I am sure that all of the freaks that currently haunt my dreams were most likely in hiding. On second thought, I am not sure the tempered excitement of any regular day would have bowled me over in the first place. Yet, it must be said (though I am not the one to) that there is something often desirable about the even-keeled, slower-paced lifestyle the Midwest has to offer. And, yes, I was paid by Admissions for that last statement.

The bigger question, of course, is what is Washington University now that it has garnered some amount of acclaim and, dare I say, prestige? Well, an imperialistic empire, for one. I mean, Christ, have you seen one institution more excited about building bigger and fancier buildings in your entire life? We’re like a freaking McDonald’s with franchises, or at least a European power dominating an African culture in the 19th century-though I am not sure how much we’re focusing on the enlightenment of our natives.

Whenever I hear talk of buying and building on the land of Fontbonne, or of constructing across the way on Washington Avenue, I can mentally prepare a list of people who should never have been admitted and could save us from conquering this new, nay, gently worn world of St. Louis. Rather, the powers that be should work on the people in my salon, mall and movie theater at home who ask me what school it is I attend even after reading my sweatshirt and pitying me for doing no better than a community college.

And if I hear someone say that we’re just Ivy League students without the Ivy League status, I will have to send a mass email (or Facebook message, as it appears to be done today) and ask, “Oh really, is that why this was your second choice school?” On that note, that, sir, is a goal for the future incarnation of Washington University. Let us convert all of those “second choices” (or thirds, fourths, or “I hadn’t really heard of it but I sent the application because I just wanted the mail to stop and I didn’t get in anywhere else”), and make this a unified body of people who at least pretend they weren’t dejected when Columbia or Duke turned their backs.

Maybe I have been too harsh. Maybe the student body is something of which I should be proud, and the school is more than a mere factory for Pepto Bismol-pink buildings. But that seems a tad too nice, and then who would be entertained? I won’t be the bearer of a brighter tomorrow. That’s a dream for another day, another decade.

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