Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself having a very specific conversation multiple times. What’s interesting is that I’ve found this conversation to be, in all of its iterations, a lengthy and emotional complaint, rather than a platonic dialogue. Further, each person who has raised the topic has approached it neither casually nor conversationally, but rather with an overwhelmingly intense discontent (which sometimes bordered on anger, or even fury).
At this point you’re probably wondering, “What is this topic? Why such outrage?” Put simply, it’s the plight of the LSA student.
As a reporter for the Michigan Daily, I often have the privilege of attending events and receiving information that I would not have otherwise. Recently, I was asked to cover a story about a tree at the business school. While this may sound boring, it was most definitely not – the tree was a 250-year-old, 65-foot-tall, burr oak and it was going to be in the news because it was moving.
Moving? A tree? That’s right. The Ross School of Business just spent nearly half a million dollars to move a tree. Why? So that they could build yet another enormous, modern, and arguably unnecessary eyesore of a building exactly where the tree had been standing. Nothing against you, Ross students, but I see why some people thought this was irrational behavior on the part of whomever wrote the check.
A few days later, my Democratic Theory class had a meeting called The General Assembly, in which we set out to identify a problem and come to a consensus regarding the resolution of that conflict through the process of horizontal democracy. After an hour of raising propositions, the only statement of purpose we could settle on was, “all students should be treated as equals by the University.” We took this to mean that the University should exercise equality of means and opportunity with regards to its distribution of resources and its decision-making process. All students should have a voice, we contended.
What’s interesting is that each time someone raised their hand to provide support for this proposition, he or she cited some kind of injustice that they felt been directed at us, the LSA students. Public enemy number one? A Mr. Stephen M. Ross. Why? Because he seems to have more of a say than all the LSA students combined in how money is distributed at the University, despite the fact that he doesn’t even go here.
I realized then that this was not an argument I hadn’t heard before. In fact, I have been having this same chat with my fellow liberal arts students (in one form or another) since coming to the University. Together, this points to one thing: at our vast and prestigious and spectacular institution, where we are encouraged to feel at home and reassured that we will be supported no matter what course of study we choose, money is being spent mostly to further a few agendas, while largely ignoring the vast student body. At least that’s what a lot of people around me are saying.
The Ross kids already have not one, but two beautiful class buildings complete with a state of the art gym, classrooms updated with the latest teaching and learning technologies, and their very own Starbucks. Similarly, student athletes have their own athletic complexes, study spaces, and hundreds of articles of clothing emblazoned with the yellow block M. Even the dental school was just approved for an expansive remodel. And if you’re a freshman, you can reasonably expect to sit on more than three million dollars worth of new furniture in East Quad alone.
And what about the washed up LSA students? Well, we have two options: (1) Sit in Angell Hall each day trying not to fall out of those weird old chairs that are attached to the tables awkwardly from the side while simultaneously hoping the ceiling doesn’t cave in before the lecture is over. (2) Do the same in the even-more-run-down MLB.
If you, reader, are a Ross student, a student athlete, an aspiring dentist, or a freshman granted the luxury on living on central campus, congratulations. Your interests have been deemed important by the people who decide what we should all invest in. Further, these interests have been on the agenda for a while, since its part of how you were lured here in the first place. Do you object on the grounds that the millions being put towards your college experience were earmarked for those purposes from the moment they were donated? If so, that’s true. But it doesn’t change the fact that the higher-ups decided that your cause was worth the donation more than ours to begin with. This is not to say that the University doesn’t invest in LSA at all, because that would be untrue. I, an LSA student, have the luxury of learning from some of the most esteemed professors in the country each day, and I wouldn’t ever trade that. I merely wish to point out that there is an inequality here that deserves to be noted beyond the confines of my Political Science class (which, by the way, meets in a smelly old lecture hall in a faraway science building where the tall boys in my class complain each day that their knees jut up against the seats in front of them whenever they try to squeeze themselves into the tiny seats set in rows narrower than the last row of the economy section of a small plane. You know, the row where your seat doesn’t even recline).
Maybe one day we’ll figure out how to make philanthropic billionaires from scholars of the liberal arts. Maybe I’ll even be the anomaly who strikes gold with a BA in Political Science. Either way, I hope it happens, since it’s the only way a tree will ever move for an LSA student.