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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Stereotypes abound in the Undergraduate College system

The typical college campus is a practice neighborhood. (YAN CHEN / THE STATESMAN)

The idea of a college campus is in many ways peculiar, particularly in the way it presents its environment. It has clean cut, expansive lawns, built-in walkways lined with flower beds and strategically-adorned plants, every-which-way distribution of deciduous trees and newfangled outdoor sculptures.

These are the certain aspects of college life that all make us feel civilized as well as a little uncomfortable.  In a way, the typical college campus is a practice neighborhood.  If you took away the sign with the name of the university, it would essentially look like a miniature county or district (or in some cases, a convent).  It so desperately strives to look and feel like a community, that it does anything but.  So desperately trying to blend in that it stands out, or so un-noteworthy as to be in itself noteworthy. To paraphrase, we are only able to see the attempt.

This is true for Stony Brook University, yet on a much larger scale.  Because of its immense size as a campus, it is not so much trying to look like community or neighborhood as it is attempting to represent a new Europe.  People may think this to be too grandiose a generalization, but it certainly seems to come off that way. This is mostly due to our Undergraduate Colleges.

As I am sure everyone is aware, incoming freshmen are assigned to one of six Undergraduate Colleges:  Arts, Culture, and Humanities; Global Studies; Human Development; Information and Technology Studies; Leadership and Service; Science and Society. “Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Colleges are small but vital communities, offering individualized support while tailoring the first-year experience for students with similar interests,” Jean C. Peden, Assistant Dean and Director of Undergraduate Colleges states in the Stony Brook Undergraduate College website.

The “Your First Year At Stony Brook Handbook” refers to the undergraduate colleges as having their own “personality”, and as uncomfortable as that may read, that statement weirdly enough lends itself to reality.   But who in actuality perpetuates this  “personality” within the Undergraduate Colleges?

Once a student selects an Undergraduate College based on their compatibility with said college’s philosophy, they are officially branded with these characteristics for the rest of their enrollment.  This can be a bit problematic since it principally minimizes an entire group of people to one specific set of traits.  This is rather amusing, due to the fact that while Stony Brook University boasts of its tolerance and acceptance as an institution, this practice can be viewed as a form of stereotyping.

Interestingly enough, we are not above stereotyping either.  The “Which Undergraduate College?” question can be received with judgmental hostility.  I belong to ACH, yet I am in no way artistic, cultured or humanitarian, and it raises my ire if anyone seems to suggest otherwise (or perhaps I am taking things too literally). In all seriousness, when I was asked this all-encompassing question (or should I say enCAMPUSing), it was then followed by the assumption that I smoked cannabis (which is just not giving enough credit to all the other Undergraduate Colleges).

All in all, from what I have been told, ACH students are known as the Bohemian starving artists, GLS affiliates are the brazen philistines, HDV students perhaps become the mentally underdeveloped residents from exposure to Kelly Quad over time, ITS students are … informative? (I am not sure anyone truly has an opinion of Mendelsohn), LDS students are nauseatingly peppy and SSO people are patronizing.  Of course this is in no way the case for everyone, but it is certainly interesting that many people could accept these generalizations as fact.

I suppose the coup de grace of all this burrowed ugliness boils down to humans’ odd tendency to try and categorize other people.  We are, essentially, being ‘placed’ in a domesticated area where Stony Brook faculty can classify students. Are these not the traits of a totalitarian governed society? Not to prefigure Jean C. Peden as some sort of despot-I am sure she is a very nice woman, and not in the least bit megalomaniacal. Unlike all those other assistant deans, who have power-hungry motives and temptations to assassinate the Head Dean of Colleges in order to ascend the throne of academia (assuming that all college department faculties work in the way of a hierarchy, which would explain the dictatorship resemblance I am trying to connect for Stony Brook).

The whole goal of the Undergraduate College system is to provide a sense of community- when it, in a way, breeds and perpetuates petty stereotypes… and I love it.  It is amusing rather than noxious in our college environment, and we should, as a student body, have something to laugh at within this institution.  I personally am very pleased when I am able to find something to carp about, especially when it comes to mocking the accepting haven that the Stony Brook brochures claim the university is. Recognizing the flaws of what governs us is a healthy reality check, especially when we are presented with this faux reality within our college “community.”  The truth is, we would never truly want to live in a utopia, as much as we might profess: there would be nothing to take the piss out of.

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