An open letter to the students of UMass

By Brad Polumbo

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Jessica Picard/Collegian

Dear Students of UMass,

  1. The Real World Isn’t a Safe Space

At UMass and colleges nationwide, there have been overwhelming calls for university administrations to declare “safe spaces.” These safe spaces are areas, sometimes campus-wide, where students are shielded from ideas or words that they disagree with, might be offended by, or might find triggering. The problem with this notion is that the fundamental role of colleges and universities is to not only educate students but to prepare them for life in the outside world. Unfortunately, in the real world, there are no trigger warnings and you need to be prepared to handle real aggressions, let alone microaggressions. You will encounter, on a nearly daily basis, things that offend you or aren’t neatly in line with your worldview. The world isn’t a politically correct place – in fact at times it’s a disagreeable, offensive, racist and terrifying place. If we create “safe spaces” on our colleges campuses where we pretend these things don’t exist, sheltered students will be ill equipped to handle the real world after graduation.

  1. College is an Investment 

Receiving a college education enriches our lives in many ways. However, the fact remains that one of the most important reasons to spend four years here is to secure for yourself a pathway to a promising career. With the exorbitant cost of college today and the harsh realities of the world we live in, you need to start looking at your education as an investment in your future. You pay your college tuition bill so at the end of the day it’s your decision alone whether you want to major in gender studies or philosophy, despite the fact that more practical fields like business or science have better employment prospects and wages. It’s up to you whether you spend your four years here hitting the bars or the books. But remember, you are not entitled to a job or the material comforts you’re likely accustomed to when you leave here after these four years. Your decisions are your own to make but ultimately if your education decisions turn out to be a bad investment, it’s nobody else’s fault but your own.

  1. Open Your Mind

I hate to be the one to break it to you but at the ages of 18-22, we do not have the entire world figured out. Yes, I know you’ve read several Buzzfeed articles on each hot political topic and you’ve heard the opinions of your educated but incredibly partisan professors. Still, I encourage you not to go through life thinking that one side has everything spot-on and that there is nothing to learn from those you disagree with. After all, for every well-researched professor espousing liberal ideology on campuses nationwide, there is a Yale or Harvard-educated conservative somewhere doing the same. Don’t fall into the trap of the liberal bubble, the echo chamber where you’re never confronted by the ideas of those you disagree with. Ultimately, there is no single truth, and constantly exposing yourself to the ideas of those you disagree with will only making your understanding of your own opinions more complete.

  1. Be Grateful

Liberal activists on campuses across the country are the first to bandy about the term privilege – usually, but not always, referencing white privilege. To be fair, there is no doubt that there is some level of institutional and social racial inequality still existing today. However, to divvy-up campus communities in order of how privileged we are can be not only divisive, but it also distracts from how blessed we are to have opportunity. Essentially, when you do this what you’re doing is saying “Well you’re in the 99th percentile of privileged people on this earth and I’m only in the 97th …” Don’t forget for a moment that there are millions of people on this earth who are oppressed, enslaved, starving or impoverished. There are people who don’t have an iota of the opportunity that all Americans have, regardless of race, gender or class. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you are victimized or held back by our society. Will we all face a level playing field? Undoubtedly, the answer is no. But at the end of the day, what you make of your life is up to you and you alone.

Bradley Polumbo is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]