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Blowing It All Out of Proportion, June 14, 1998 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: June 14, 1998
"Blowing It All Out of Proportion" [permalink]
    keywords: education, school
    soapbox #: 140
    written: June 14, 1998
    words: 2200

"Blowing It All Out of Proportion", an Essay

Nope, the title isn't what you thought. Sorry. Ya sick perverts.

You know what I hate? Knee-jerks who write response letters like this guy, who got published in The Daily Texan on September 22nd, 1998. (yes, I know the date is after this Soapbox's date, but this was written late because of summer festivities -- sue me!)


"Can you please tell me who is the fool responsible for the Horns Up / Horns Down section of the Friday paper? They gave a horns down to students who were not protesting the seating switch, citing those a lack of courage. Well, I have not protested, but not for lack of courage. Rather, I am busy with frivolous things such as working so that I might pay tuition and eat.

"You see, not everybody has a rich daddy to buy them a Jeep and pay for their West Campus apartment. If this newspaper truly believes that the most pressing issue is where students sit to watch mediocre football, then I am curious to know which UT they attend so that I might transfer to that paradise. I attended and enjoyed football games at Florida State, you know, a school that actually wins bowl games, but I transferred to (gasp!!) a school which did not even have football because (gasp, gasp!!) I was unhappy with the academic situation.

"By castigating students who are not outraged by a mind-alteringly trivial issue, this paper has done nothing to alter the widely held, apparently correct, perception that UT students are little more than bratty children. I would hope that in the future, this paper would find the good sense to address more pressing issues at this university. However, worry not Daily Texan. In spite of my personal feelings, I have alerted Amnesty International and they have promised to refocus all of their efforts away from Burma and Bosnia and onto this most pressing violation of human rights."

Shawn Mullet
History senior

Hoo boy, where do I begin? Well, first of all, I should shed some light on the situation for those who have no idea what's going on at UT Austin these days. The Daily Texan is the daily UT student-run publication.

UT Austin overloads money and attention into its football program, which provides a lot of its revenue and draws a lot of students and prospects. Just a few years ago, UT put millions of dollars into skyboxes at the football stadium, just as the football team turned from a top contender to a trashy team.

This summer, UT decided to take out some of the student seats at the stadium in favor of special seats for, I suppose, financial supporters of the UT sports program. Naturally, those who fund an operation receive higher precedence than those who get enjoyment out of it -- this has been going on even before the days of the Roman Coliseum.

UT students were outraged by this motion, since it showed just how much the directors bend over for the fundraisers and business partners of the program. Students requested that they be given their seats back, but the main director, whose name is DeLoss Dodds, refused.

Dodds later allowed students to vote on which seats they wanted. The problem was that the choices were NOT between the old seats and new seats, but between upper deck seats and goal-line seats. Not exactly the best places to view a game from. So students felt like they were voting between worse and worst.

So the vote was just concluded and added up, and some students are pissed off that there wasn't more of a reaction from other students. Some students wanted a third choice on the ballot for "neither". Most all students are pissed off that UT is screwing with their right to enjoy campus facilities which are, after all, for THEM.

So that's where it stands right now. Personally? I think that UT is mainly football and business/law, and it funnels tons of money into these areas while neglecting other areas. But overall, the professors are great and the classrooms and equipment are decent.

I do not like college football, and I don't watch or go to the games. I know about the team, to some degree, and think it's great when they play well, but it just doesn't interest me all that much. Other people can be far more serious about the matter, as you know. So I'm not terribly sympathetic towards this situation, but I do see the administration fucking over the students, and that's something I do not want at my university.

I just think it's a joke that students find it even harder to watch their own team play, a team made up of students themselves, because some guy put down money to support an amateur sport which is supposed to ban external advantages. I think it's clear where UT's priorities are, and where students' priorities are. Students do not care about the university at all -- they care about student groups and whatnot. Students have pathetic voting percentages here, just because none of them feel like it makes any difference. The administration and the students have a large void between them. What's worse is that I'm sure this is the case at many of the U.S.'s universities.

So now I can digress into further invective when dissecting this guy's letter. For a history senior, his English skills are appalling, and this actually does bear some importance on the weight of his argument.

I am assuming Mr. Mullet wrote his letter in full seriousness. It sounds serious to me, and usually any attempts at satire sent to The Daily Texan are so blatantly satirical that they even TELL you it's satire while they write the damn things... There're few things worse than that.

Mr. Mullet bases his argument around prioritizing things in life, entrenched in himself as someone who's had to work very hard to get to where he is now. He is "working so that [he] might pay tuition and eat" and he has attended Florida State, a school which is more of a sports organization than a university.

He assumes that the only people who have time to worry about the redistribution of stadium seats are people who have "a rich daddy to buy them a Jeep and pay for their West Campus apartment."

Later, Mr. Mullet broadens his attack to include Amnesty International, which has nothing to do with the situation, even in hyperbole.

Do you have any idea how much this junk bothers me? It really ticks me off. I keep running into similar people who make it their prerogative to pull this bullshit on others and make their lives miserable.

There's this woman I know on a MUD I play on, and she's very intelligent. Went on Jeopardy! and has worked for NASA and is a storyteller. That sort of thing. She knows a lot about a lot, and she travels to obscure places on the globe for pleasure. I don't know what THAT says about her -- maybe a desire for being different and "hip".

Anyway, I remember quite vividly one time talking with a friend of mine about Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield's ear off during their boxing match. This was a few days after it happened. This woman then interrupts, telling us how she should not have to be subjected to our conversation (which was on a public channel and actually involved several people contributing) because boxing was so unimportant. Boxing meant nothing when people were dying in Somalia and people were being oppressed in communist states.

In other words, nothing in our lives should trouble us because there are people out there who have it far worse and who think a meal twice a week is a good week.

Well, of course she's right, and Mr. Mullet's right, but only in a blatantly obvious way. This sort of inability to recognize degrees of prioritization and importance in peoples' lives is so frigging infantile. There are many aspects to how people think and interact, and many different things that people put energy into supporting and thinking about. We are diverse creatures.

I don't disagree that things could be far worse that we don't have time to worry about football seats and boxing. But long ago, when I was just a small child, I learned that different things have different levels of concern that should be placed upon them. I learned that if I needed to go to the bathroom, and I was also starving at the time, that I'd better go to the bathroom first. Both were very important to me, but one was a more pressing concern and more directly affecting me.

Maybe these people are just completely socially inept, but prioritizing things is not exactly an advanced skill. Even chimps and dogs can do it.

I do not really know what true hunger is. I don't know what it's like to have to live on money day by day. I don't know what it's like to be afraid of my family or people I see daily. Those things, fortunately, are not a part of my life. I know fully well that other people must suffer and go through intense pain. I know I could be doing charity work to help the less fortunate. Everyone could. But I don't. It's not a part of my life. I'm no saint. I'm more concerned with setting up my life, young still as it is, before I start working on others'.

Mr. Mullet is proud of himself because he has to pay his way through college. Well, sorry, buddy, but UT tuition is not exactly Ivy League cash. It could be far worse, paying for tuition. He has no fucking idea how hard life is, and he cannot sit there and talk about how other people have it easy. He's in at least his fourth year of college, something many people can't even realistically consider, and he's had a good education and he has a job. That poor, poor person.

Do not attack students who are more fortunate than you, students who don't have to work and who have far more luxuries than they require. That sort of resentment of more fortunate people pisses me off even more than ignorant rich people do. Attacking these students who have little bearing on the university except for its fraternity/sorority statistics just diffuses your argument.

Since Mr. Mullet came from Florida State to get AWAY from an academic institution that values a sport higher than football, he should know with an even more keen mind how important student representation is. He should know that having administration giving students' seats to non-students is a direct slap in the face for the people who attend the university. He should know that this hallowed institution will turn into another Florida State if he decides to sit dormant instead of taking action.

Mr. Mullet should support the students in getting their seats and representation back, making it known to administration that a university is made up of students, not fundraisers.

Unfortunately, he's just another prick who looks down upon people who have done others no harm, scrambling to stay atop a platform of hypocrisy as he attacks that which he bases all his personal livelihood off of. This attitude (which I don't think Mr. Mullet completely subscribes to, but merely used as support for his letter) runs rampant, involving pestering people who don't spend every waking moment feeling guilty about how bad the rest of the world is. This attitude makes life miserable for everyone and achieves nothing constructive.

There will always be someone better off or worse off than you, someone who works harder or less than you, someone who is more intelligent or more stupid than you. Students, no matter who they are, should be able to see their college team play, so that they can relax and show pride for their university. People deserve respect, or at least the benefit of the doubt, and people absolutely deserve facilities that were built for, designed for, and funded by them. That is what's important to remember here.

I think we need to shed our biases and try to more objectively and rationally deal with situations in an age where ad hominem is no longer the exception in discussions. I know more than most, through criticism of my writing, how important objectivity is to an argument's credibility -- I'm still working on it, but I just have a sadistic streak that yearns for personal snipes. I AM trying to change my ways to mature my writing...people like Mr. Mullet, however, seem to have a long way to go.


 
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