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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A time to change, a change for time

Published: October 10, 2014
Section: Opinions

Could you give me the time? It is a simple question, having been asked among strangers on buses and trains since the invention of the wristwatch (and, of course, the bus and the train). In a bygone era, it could have been the beginning of a great conversation, an icebreaker used to talk to the attractive girl or guy sitting next to you. Nowadays, in the heyday of the information era, the concept that someone could not be carrying a device on them that could show them the time (as well as the Dow Industrial Average, the chance of rain in Ouagadougou and the photo of the dress your stepmother sewed you for Christmas) is utterly inconceivable. Instead of excitement at the chance to talk to someone new, or even mild annoyance at an interruption in their day, if you ask a stranger for the time nowadays, they will respond with a condescending mix of pity at your obvious poverty and delight in showing their new fancy gadget that you couldn’t upstage. These phone elitists, as they are becoming increasingly known, then initiate one of the most trying experiences in all of college life. While the asker looking for the time most likely needs to rush off to an impending class, doctor’s appointment or court-appointed anger management class, the phone elitist revels in describing each step in the process of turning on their phone to see what time it is.

Now let’s say you’re in Lower Usdan, when you suddenly realize your roommate’s birthday party started three hours ago and you were supposed to pick up the cake. Rushing toward the exit, you glance up at the clock on the wall to see if you can still make it before the health department closes down the bakery, only to realize there is no clock on the wall in Lower Usdan. Every day across our fair campus, situations just like these play out with horrifying results: missed labs, late papers and inappropriately cakeless birthday parties.

We have an obligation to each student to provide the support they need to thrive here at Brandeis, whether or not they have the financial means to order a fancy phone (or the social skills to find a better friend to pick up their birthday cake.) Not everyone can afford an electronic device to give them the time: They might be Amish, or allergic to rare earth metals, or have had the Apple Corporation put a hit on them. They might have a family member who was tragically killed by a rogue Blackberry giving him driving directions into a brick wall.

If we can afford to spend $2 million on a couple of lampposts, surely a $4.99 wall clock from Target wouldn’t break the bank. At over $45,000 a year per student and over 3,600 undergraduate students alone, the university could actually afford 32,464,929 wall clocks from Target—enough to put one in every room on campus and still have over 32,000,000 left over. Heck, with even 1/1,000,000 of the budget of the university there would still be more than enough to provide this basic service to our campus. Heck, we could even splurge for a clock tower somewhere so even people outdoors could know the time. With such a small expenditure of resources, a truly positive change could be made in our campus community.

Let’s face it—clocks are important. They allow us to function in a modern community like Brandeis, and thus must be provided to our community. And let’s be real: If we can cut down on the number of cakeless birthday parties, perhaps we won’t need as many court-appointed anger management sessions.