Mike McDermott, Contributing Writer
Freshman year is a gateway. It is a time of wonder and enthusiasm in which we students lay the foundation for the rest of our college careers and, in many ways, for the rest of our lives. It is a period of ups and downs that leads us to places we often never expected. However, despite the numerous joys it brings, being a freshman has been and always will be a state most — if not all — upperclassmen relish degrading.
There are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the most obvious would be human nature, wherein we the upperclassmen succumb to that unfortunate tendency to degrade others for the sake of making ourselves feel better. However, it is more likely due to the fact that, whether we like it or not, the freshmen always bring to the student body a new perspective, fresh ideas and an enthusiasm many older folks have lost. They also have more time on their hands to publicly utilize the many talents they possess, and for the upperclassman, this can elicit a tinge of jealously, since these exploits often serve to convince us that our freshman experience plays second fiddle to theirs. Thus, we resort to conventional and often unfortunate means of degradation.
And yet …
There are times when this ribbing seems truly necessary. There are certain people whose conduct screams for cynical commentary, and naturally, there are those of us happy to oblige. The past fall semester, a student was seen in the library with a copy of the Iliad. She was surrounded by a pile of notebook paper and was furiously typing on her laptop. A passing upperclassman, thinking it was a little early for paper season (it was week three at the time), asked her what she was doing. She was finishing her fourth page of single-spaced notes for the day. She was halfway through Book 2.
Perhaps the resulting snort was uncalled for, but at the time, it was virtually impossible to suppress. For the freshmen are not unintelligent, much as we’d like to think they are. They merely have not made the multitude of mistakes that we the tired, battle-worn elder students have made time and time again. We have learned to prioritize. We know when to push ourselves and when to rest. We are focused on the final goal instead of on the individual obstacles. So many of our former worries have been overshadowed that we are indeed prone to snicker when we overhear a young student worried about failing out of school after his first paper comes back with a “D.” We chuckle at the horror on their young faces when they hear that internships and theses are required for graduation. And when a large group decides to start a movie at 3:30 in the morning, we offer a silent prayer that they learn the value of sleep.
So why do we chuckle? Why do we mock? Why exhibit cynicism about a place we stood just a few short years ago? Perhaps we are merely surprised to see our own mistakes repeated before our very eyes. Perhaps we are indeed succumbing to human nature.
However, it would seem that such ribbings are neither malicious nor aloof. It is not the intention of the upperclassman to damage the freshman’s self-esteem, nor does he wish to deride his classmate’s success. Rather, these remarks are a veiled celebration of the upperclassman’s own accomplishments. He is rejoicing over the maturity he has gained since his own time as a freshman. Though his ribbing may be initially embarrassing to his younger peer, it carries with it the promise that one day he, too, will gain these skills that only experience can bring. So let the playful ribbing of the underclassmen continue — not as a means of deceit or maliciousness, but as an honest expression of humor, wit and admiration.