On a beautiful, sunny day in mid-1959, the University of California purchased 1,000 acres – what would eventually become the beautiful University of California, Irvine – from the monopolizing Irvine Company for a hefty price of $1. And it’s all been downhill since then. OK. I joke, but seriously: with this year’s freshman class, the 50th graduating class, I think it may be safe to say that this campus peaked in its mid-20s.
We’re no longer the young, developing campus that everyone thinks is cute (darn you, Merced). We haven’t cornered the rebellious activist market (thanks a lot, Berkeley). And Santa Barbara has the young, good looking, gives out free booze (and STDS) thing covered (you can take that one, guys). So, what niche are we in? Perhaps, the forgettable, under-appreciated one?
What happened to the glory days when people looked up to us, when futuristic brutalism was cool? Sure, we’ve had our share of terrific alumni, but all the good people are from almost two decades ago (at least). Brilliant authors and hilarious actors like Jon Lovitz came out of the ’70s. The ’80s produced quite a few Pulitzer Prize winners and some well-known Olympians. When Professor Frank Sherwood Rowland discovered the ozone depletion problem, he not only received the Nobel Prize in 1995 but basically saved the entire planet (and had he not, we all would have died, and the world would have been inhabited by monkeys, the sole survivors of global warming. Then, a movie could have been made about it, and it probably would have been filmed outside the Social Sciences Tower [also during the ’70s]).
Professor Frederick Reines co-discovered the neutrino and also received a Nobel in 1995. After that, well, the most famous people to come out of UCI in the last seventeen years have been a Playboy centerfold, a porn star and a nude model. Oh, and the creator of “The OC,” but who really wants to brag about that on their Wikipedia page?
What happened to the time when we were known throughout the community as a catalyst for social change? When we used to actually do things? In the 60‘s UCI was the heart of California’s political activism. We had our own major political organization chapter (like that of the infamous Students for a Democratic Society [SDS]), and thousands of students and teachers would stage rallies and teach-ins in solidarity with universities like Kent State.
Alas, sometime between the 1969 and now, apathy has spread like a virus, infecting every student it touches. Now, it’s difficult enough to get students to know the names of the G.O.P. candidates. It’s nearly impossible to get them to read the newspaper. Gone are the days of wheatpasting posters with catchy slogans such as, “Don’t do heroin. The only dope worth shooting is Nixon.” What a fall from grace we are.
Don’t get me wrong. Our students still do things. They’re very active. They’re active recruiting for their frats. Or selling $2 boba. Or giving out $15/hr job cards. Or selling boba. Or getting arrested for verbally assaulting Israeli ambassadors. Or selling boba. Or being anti-Semitic. I just don’t think these activities are terribly particularly amazing.
So, yes, I know that I sound like a downer. And I know I’m raining on the UCI parade when most of the students have never experienced rain before, but honestly, you can do better, UCI. You have before. And I understand that you may be going through a rough period right now, a late-life crisis if you will, but cheer up. I hear that 50 is the new 40, so there is hope for you yet.
Justin Huft is a third-year Psychology and Social Behavior major. He can be reached at email@example.com.