campout rant

September 13, 2004

so the campout is over. i didn’t enjoy it. i know some did; i saw several b-school students with 40s duct taped (seriously) to their hands at 8 am saturday morning, and they looked downright gleeful. but for many of us, the campout was simply a chance to lose a lot of sleep, waste most of a weekend, and gape at other grad students trying to act like college freshmen.

i realize that i sound really negative. this weekend’s experience made me feel old, which really troubled me at first, but then i realized that it might not be such a bad thing. i kept thinking about what better things i could be doing with my time, and how much i would rather hang out with my friends in another setting. i did enjoy some parts of campout – seeing people dressed in smurf costumes, playing hearts and celebrity, just generally talking/hanging out with my classmates who i don’t see as often anymore – but mostly i was miserable. i don’t like being held captive at the mercy of others, which is exactly how campout is run.

example #1: “tent-checks” are performed on a random basis. these are held, in theory, to make sure one is still present at campout. a whistle is blown, and you have 10 minutes to hightail it to the ‘check-in’ lines, which are organized alphabetically. soldier-like ‘checkers’ stand at the front of the line, and when you reach that point, you show your ID and give your assigned number, and they check you off. very boot-camp-esque.

i understand the need to make sure people are still there, because if not for the checks, i definitely would have snuck out. but the only reason i can think of for our leaders to call 4 tent-checks in a row from the hours of 2:00 – 3:10 am is to be mean and exert power over the captive campers, simply because they can. some might argue that ‘it’s to make sure the people who get to win tickets REALLY want to go to those games,’ but i still think it’s mean. and arbitrary. it selects for those who don’t mind being pushed around by undeserving authority, and is that really the audience duke wants at its games? [i guess so.]

example #2: “community service” as i described yesterday consisted of filling out surveys for business school research. it’s true that there were other options at first, but as the line diminished, i had to choose between that and weeding for 3 hours, and – well, i really, really don’t like weeding. so maybe it’s partially my own fault that i ended up donating my time to those who need it least – the business school! – but it pains me to see so many hours go to such poor use, and i’m not just talking about the surveys. what if, instead of requiring everyone to campout, they required everyone to do something good for the community? what if 36 hours of community service were required rather than the traditional 36 hours of tent-checks, beer-drinking, and mosquito bites?

– my time would no longer be wasted

– others would benefit

– we would be acting like the responsible people we claimed to be on our graduate school applications.

now that the campout is over, i don’t regret suffering through it; i’m glad i will get the chance to see some of the basketball games at cameron this year. but i am never doing it again. i think the system truly needs a change.

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