A couple of other publications on campus have waxed poetically about graduation, saying that it’s time for seniors to leave the comfort and security of college life, and venture out into “the real world.” You’ve now concluded your “academic career” and now it’s time to leave behind your cushy campus life where you were shielded from the responsibilities of adulthood.
Well, hold on just a minute. Doesn’t something sound off about that? Shielded from the real world? These kids have been in the real world for years now. They’ve had three co-ops. They’ve lived off-campus. Many of them have supported themselves financially. Entering “the real world” just means it’s their time to start supporting the student loan bubble.
We don’t think the Class of 2016 was coddled at Drexel. Class of 2016 still remembers a time before Chestnut Square and The Summit. Class of 2016 remembers being crammed three-to-a-room in inhumane conditions in Towers Hall, which meant severe restrictions on guests because otherwise it violated the building’s occupancy permit. Class of 2016 saw the University in transition, with the demolition of Matheson Hall and the beloved fountain, and Gerri S. LeBow Hall’s erection. Or the demolition of the much-maligned Hess Labs, and its non-replacement. Class of 2016 was not subject to sophomore housing requirements, and lived freely in ratty rowhouses and dilapidated, subdivided mansions. They fought with slumlords to get leaks fixed, heating systems turned on and plumbing repaired. They sipped cheap beer on front porches at 32nd and Haverford on warm summer nights, providing color commentary on the parallel parking jobs of folks attending the house show across the street.
Our younger students may never know these experiences – they have lived in on-campus buildings marketed as luxury apartments. They have fitness centers, floor-to-ceiling windows, climate control, hardwood floors. They have guards, and countless secure entry systems. They have responsive maintenance staff. Life off-campus has become identical to life on-campus – and while it is good for the surrounding neighborhoods, what will it cost our students in terms of life experience?
Our University does a better job than most at preparing students for “the real world” by putting them in “the real world” well before they’re out of college. Our strongest method of doing this is the co-op program, and our rapid-fire ten-week terms. Some of our intangibles, however, are gone from us. Our students are becoming more and more “students of Drexel University” and less “residents of West Philadelphia.” Does this make students less a part of “the real world?” Only time will tell.
But for now, Class of 2016, you’ve done it. You’ve graduated. You have nothing to fear from “the real world” – it’s the same meaningless platitude it’s always been.