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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Writer's Block: Fun Czar: if it's good enough for Harvard…

Published: January 21, 2005
Section: Opinions

There has really never been much doubt that Brandeis provides its student body with a high quality education. We have the dedicated administration, the notable faculty, the proud alumni, the generous donors. The environment around here breathes academic rigor.

Even outside of the classroom, it is apparent that Brandeis students are passionate about learning. Youll find them debating politics over pizza at the Boulevard, doing problems sets on a Saturday night, reading Byron in the bathroom. With students who are so dedicated to their studies, it is no surprise that, in addition to being known as a prestigious university, Brandeis has also been characterized by a social life that is somewhat lacking.

Theres nothing wrong with attending a university that prides itself on academic achievement. I have always been proud to tell people where I go to college. Anyone over the age of thirty will smile and nod appreciably, having heard great things about the growth and success of our young school. If theyre over fifty, thats even better. Oh! Brandeis. Theyll congratulate you for attending such a fine school. But in terms of our own age pool, Ive found that Brandeis hasnt yet established itself on the map.

Tell a twenty year old that you go to Brandeis, and they may not show quite as much admiration, or even recognition, as someone older. Debra Messing went there! I might say in an attempt to impress. Or, Rachel Cohen from The Simpsons! if theyre not a Will and Grace fan. There is no doubt that Brandeis has been building national esteem and acknowledgment over the past decades, but we have not yet become a school whose name is widely known among students.

The reasoning for this may have a great deal to do with the atmosphere on campus that at times feels like all work and no play. Brandeis is not in the same league as party schools like Wisconsin or Florida State. Hell, we probably dont even measure up to Bentley down the street. But recent news has shown that Brandeis is not alone in its overachieving, too-busy-working-to-have-a-good-time woes. In fact, it seems as though were in a category along with the very best: Harvard University.

It is only to be expected that students at top schools might suffer the consequences of the academic pressure. Oftentimes, it isnt that the students dont want to kick back and have fun on the weekends, but the schools lack of promotion of a campus social life becomes the confounding variable. In the past few weeks, Harvard University has recognized complaints of their negligence of campus social life, and have taken action to ensure that their school does not develop a slogan similar to that of the University of Chicago: Where fun goes to die.

Zac Corker, a recent Harvard grad, has been hired by his alma mater to assume the newly developed position of Fun Czar. (Leave it to the pretentious minds over in Cambridge to come up with such a clever, oxymoronic title as this one.) Despite the prevalence of studying and extracurricular activities that took up most students time, Corker worked during his undergrad years to ensure students their right to enjoy that elusive, non-educational, full-fun recreation. Apparently he earned a name for himself, and Corker is now officially the go-to guy on campus for students who are looking to organize social events and need help getting them off the ground.

The action that Harvard has taken to improve the quality of social life for their students is impressive. For such a distinguished university, steeped in the conservative traditions of its past, going and hiring a guy whose job description could be summed up in two words: Make fun, might be seen as somewhat out of character. But the university should be commended because it has recognized a problem, and instead of ignoring it and funneling all of its money into other endeavors, it has made an effort to address the needs of the students.

Perhaps in the midst of all the bureaucracy, with the need to update and renovate, to keep the faculty full and the course offerings varied, a deficient social life seems like a minor problem. What difference will a few basketball tournaments or make-your-own-sundae nights make in the scheme of things? But when it comes down to it, it is the social vibe of a campus that creates its community and ultimately makes it a place that people will or will not want to be.

Harvard has done the right thing by hiring someone who is young and informed enough to be an accessible tool for students, someone who knows what is going to work in creating the desired environment on campus. Hopefully, Harvards recent steps will start a trend and maybe even catalyze our own schools never-ending quest to become a livelier place. And who knows? If you manage to have enough fun during your four years here, you might even earn yourself a job: Brandeis University Fun Czar.