New College, old traditions

New College, old traditions
Senior Jake Smith, President of the Listening Club, enjoys records Friday in Lloyd Hall./CW|Megan Smith

Maybe you don’t know anything about New College, and maybe you don’t care. Maybe you think it’s neat, but not for you. Maybe you think it’s a bunch of restless slackers hanging out and pretending to have academic integrity.

I could give you the standard New-College-success-story farewell. Boy goes to college not knowing what he wants to do. Boy finds interdisciplinary. Boy realizes it’s been the way he’s thought from the beginning and never knew it. Boy gets roped into being president of the social body. Boy gets most things wrong, gets some right. Boy gets into prestigious graduate school. Boy is congratulated. Boy is gracious.

All well and good, but again, who cares? So, out of 200 students, a few are intelligent and motivated and really into this kind of thing. They could have gotten on without. Let’s get to the lesson, why don’t we?

You see, that’s just it — there isn’t really one lesson. Everyone takes something different from his or her time here. Some do it simply for the academic freedom, picking and choosing classes at a whim (easier said than done, truth be told). Some do it because they know people who seem to really enjoy it. Who doesn’t want to take a seminar on “creativity” with their friends? Sounds like a great way to kick back and earn some credit. Some just don’t fit in anywhere else, but can’t afford not to follow the money they got from the University.

We make up less than one percent of the student body here at our alma mater, and still I don’t know all of the people in it (it ain’t for lack of trying, let me tell you). What ties all these geeks, freaks, greeks and others together?

It’s a matter of agency. It means empowering people by showing them they had the power all the time to make big decisions and follow through with them, even when they repeatedly explain to their grandparents what a depth study is. It’s having the self-confidence enough to blaze your own trail and burn your own bridges, if you see fit. It’s about leaving for New York and never coming back, or going home every other weekend to do volunteer work.

Whether you want to stand out or fill in, you’re taught, explicitly and otherwise, to own who and what you are. And that’s something to which we all can aspire.

Till we meet again, y’all.


Jake Smith is the president of New College.

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