For me, this whole “college thing” feels like I’m at the back end of a bad romantic relationship and all I can do is worry about how much better it could be. Here I am with this good-looking girl, but something’s off. She’s OK to talk to, but she could be a lot more interesting if she tried. Her friends are kind of annoying, she’s not real fun to be around, etc.
So with this girl, all I do is think about how much better it could be. I romanticize past relationships and relationships my friends have had to feel bad about my own exploits. I get depressed after watching “Love, Actually” because it shows me how far off I really am. I imagine an alternate reality where finding the right girl is very, very possible, and the only reason I haven’t yet is because I never really tried that hard.
But that’s CSUN. CSUN is the girl. I am dating CSUN.
I’ll be walking out of this school, these classrooms, and my pseudo-apartment dorm for the last time on Dec. 16. But I leave with a degree of resentment that all my friends, my colleagues here at the Daily Sundial, and my parents know about. Simply put, I seriously wonder if this school challenged me, either academically or as a person, to a degree that I am proud of. Did I fit here? Was my time here well spent?
I don’t think I am the only person who asks himself these same questions. Some of my best friends have done the same. One of them took the developmental math course and hated it to no end. One was once told by an adviser that “no one knew” if a community college course would transfer over to CSUN. Another actively thinks she might never graduate from this school and from her directionless department.
So I fantasize about how much better this school could be, all around. I imagine a college town on Reseda Boulevard. I imagine students actually succeeding in ENGL 155 and the other writing classes. I imagine an athletics program “normal” students care about and follow with a strict prideful passion. I imagine living in the dorms to be a communal experience. I imagine being challenged in every single class I’m in.
I imagine political activism on campus, and a university administration that doesn’t disenroll 4 percent of its student body at the beginning of the semester. I imagine student fees remaining stable from year to year. I imagine the student body caring even a little bit about the school’s major fundraising projects. I imagine North Campus to not be a widely considered development screw-up. I imagine academic advisers who realize that every student is different, but that every student needs to be challenged as if they were one in the same.
But these fantasies aren’t CSUN, and I know that. This university is that girl who I think I can do better than, so I consider all the ways in which she is lacking.
The more rational side of my brain tells me that this is not healthy. I should not long for things – a new basketball stadium, more academic rigor, better university-student communication – that will most likely never happen at this school. Those things, while characteristic of UCLA or USC for instance, are not CSUN. CSUN is something else, just like that girl, and it’s not responsible for me to ask something to be what it’s not.
The more raw side of my brain, though, feels that perhaps some of these things that I have seen over the past three and a half years are not intentional or fluid, not some product of higher-educational Darwinism that needs to be allowed because “that’s the way it is.” Our administrators here seem to have a better grasp on what those things are, or at least their calm-cool-collectedness would hint at their seeming developmental maturity. They seem to not be that panicked about not every student receiving mandatory academic advisement.
I leave this school with much conflict, and much regret of how I’ve handled that conflict. Why, at the end of the day, do I wish CSUN was something I know it is not? The easy answer is that I came to the wrong school, but the real answer might have something to do with this school’s “diamond in the rough”-like limitless potential, as evidenced by some of CSUN’s greatest successes, which seem to siphoned off by fits of poor long-term vision.
So, I want my girlfriend to not just put some make up on, but also to see a psychiatrist, perhaps fix whatever’s going on with her parents, and start telling me the truth about stuff before she becomes something that no man, elitist or not, will ever want to date.
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.