Blunt advice from a salmon

Over the past few weeks, the opinion pages of The Crimson White have been filled with a curious seasonal phenomenon. Like the migration of the salmon, a procession of senior columns has arrived to leap up the tumbling falls of reader indifference, hoping that some of their ideas will survive and breed. As one of the last columnists arriving at the party, though, I’ll leave the personal anecdotes and weighty pondering to those who are better suited for it. Here, instead, is some fairly blunt advice. You can take it or leave it, (he said, a salmon flailing against the rocks) but I hope it helps somebody.

First, the University is constantly trying to screw you financially. You are going to get gouged at least a little bit, no matter what you do, but there are some precautions you can take. Avoid the SupeStore like the plague. Nearly everything it has can be obtained for cheaper somewhere else. Its proximity and convenience are a siren song that, like Odysseus in search of textbooks, you must resist. If you have a car, get out into the larger community. Tuscaloosa is filled with small restaurants that will give you a lot of food for a little money (Hello, City Cafe! Hello, Waysider!) and if you learn a few basic recipes, you can cook fairly cheaply in an apartment or dorm kitchen.

Get your money’s worth. Take advantage of any campus opportunities that interest you, and do so sooner rather than later. If you want to take a class, go and talk to the relevant people face to face. Don’t send somebody an email and expect them to get back to you. Likewise, not talking to professors is the biggest mistake that underclassmen make. The faculty is willing to work with you if you demonstrate even a cursory amount of effort, but they will not do the work for you. If you need help, you need to ask for it.

That being said, you are here to get an education. If you wander into class half-drunk, never take notes and expect to get a good grade, than you are wasting both your money and everybody’s time. College is a fun place. We all know that. But exercise a little bit of self control and save your partying for the weekend.

To those who wish to make change on campus, consider this: You have been granted the golden opportunity of an administration that is both slow to act and afraid of controversy. The only reason that they maintain stupid policies like grounds use is that nobody calls them on it. However, that lack of responsiveness makes it easy to run rings around them if you think creatively. So mess with them. Think a few moves ahead, play to the cameras and be ready for them to slip up. The exertion of both effort and a little bit of deviousness works wonders.

Finally, be a little weird. It makes you interesting in a way that someone desperately trying to fit in simply isn’t. You aren’t in high school anymore. The only cliques judging you are the ones that you voluntarily join, and if that life no longer works for you, then you can always leave. The old cliché about college being a time for self-reinvention is true. Take advantage of it.

And with that, I’m out. Thanks to everybody who read the column, and thanks to everybody who laughed at my stupid jokes. It’s been fun getting riled up and spitting mad with you guys, and I’m going to miss it. So, to paraphrase a journalist I can never hope to match – goodnight, everyone. And good luck.

Asher Elbein was the organizer of the Progressive Potluck.

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