Friday, August 31, 2007

Tales of Camp Trin-trin

Hartford isn't Boston, New York, Athens, Northampton, New Haven, Providence, Philadelphia or San Francisco, or isn't that obvious?

So what, actually, is the point of this Advocate article?

The fact that students don't venture far off campus at Trinity? Nothing new, and probably not that unusual. I live in Middletown, and Main Street isn't crawling with Wesleyan students. Our intern this summer from Southern Illinois University couldn't tell me anything about Carbondale. Ask most of the kids at Williams, Amherst, Fairfield, or Willimantic what they know about the town where their school is located. At a lot of small schools in big and small towns, the campus is isolated, and a bubble for student life.

My business is a block from Trinity, and I've taught course there for the last five years. Here's what I can tell you from my observations:

- Some students are oblivious to anything but there own courses, parties, and their IM's and iPods (I've had students declaring a film minor who have spent three years at Trinity and never been to a film at Cinestudio!)
- Some students are brilliant, creative and fully engaged in the world (some of my past students created the International Hip-Hop Festival at Trinity, while fully involved seniors, have just finished editing a documentary on the most recent presidential election in Venezuela, have sent online dispatches from elections in Senegal, and from pre-election activities in the Muslim ghettoes of Paris)
- Some students wish they were somewhere else (Brown, Wesleyan, Yale, Columbia), and some are amazed to be at Trinity
- Most students know where to buy and drink beer, where the mall is, where West Hartford Center is, the restaurants that will deliver pizza, and where to buy drugs
- Trinity has great urban/campus initiatives which engage many students, like The Hartford Studies Program, and the Arthur Vining Davis Summer Institute of Urban and Global Studies
- Most students are correct in the assumption that Hartford doesn't offer much to engage the attention of students at any time of day or night (there is no strip of student bars, restaurants, clubs, stores)
- Some of the streets around the campus are, indeed, scary - but students aren't the only ones who avoid them. Where are the white, middle-and-monied class found on these streets? The answer, of course, is that they are no
- Some of the student housing (apartments) and frats are the worst, dirtiest, noisiest, disgusting buildings on a given block


Anonymous said...

I've had students declaring a film minor who have spent three years at Trinity and never been to a film at Cinestudio!

Oh my god! That is something worth writing an article about. That's like being an English major and not ever going to the library or being an athlete without stepping foot in the gym.

I had mixed feelings about that article. On one hand, it's true that there's a stressed relationship between town & gown, made even a bit more obnoxious by the fact that it's actually inside of Hartford and in walking distance of things. But why is Trinity being used as an example? My students at UHa are also along the spectrum of those who are so engaged & choosing to live in Hartford after graduation, to those who only venture into the city for drugs or nightclubs, to those who won't come here because they think it's "ghetto," to the rest who are somewhere in the middle--not really caring because they are also caught up with work/studies/parties/Facebook whatever.

But why should any of that be surprising? Like you said, are we asking why Aetna or Travelers employees aren't better involved in the community?

Anonymous said...

Well, I can't comment on the other schools you mention, but to some degree Williams College's relationship with Williamstown is different than you characterize it. It's located smack dab in the middle of town, it comprises nearly a quarter of the town's population, and it's far and away the town's biggest employer. Interaction between the college and the town, which is crawling with students, is inevitable. Williams professors' interest in their own kids' education profoundly influences the public school system. And the ongoing development in town is driven by faculty and returning alumni demands for more homes in ever-more secluded and idyllic settings.

What this basically amounts to is the college creating its own reality for the town. Yes, Williams is in a bubble, but the rest of the town is stuck right in there with it, both protected from the outside world. In some ways, the students, faculty and alumni actually know more about the town than the rest of the population born and raised there. I know I always felt that way growing up there.

Peter T.