My parting thoughts on CSU

Jan 162010
Authors: M. Alex Stephens

I’m a week away from graduating, and I must admit the feeling is a bit surreal. Four years of college at CSU feel like they have just flown by, but as I recall the memories one by one, a picture of something great begins to take shape.

It sounds cliché, but looking back, college is all about being able to find yourself and make better sense of this mixed up world that we live in. Today, I wouldn’t recognize the deer-in-the-headlights kid who moved into the Parmalee Residence Hall four years ago. Like any frosh, I had no real work ethic for classes. I was more interested in parties, drinking and having a good time than in my education.

The purpose of college has drastically changed from what it was 50 years ago. State university used to be much less expensive than it is now. That’s right, if you had the proper thirst for knowledge, you were admitted with minimal cost. That was a time when education was high on society’s priority list.

Now, CSU is about something much different. It’s a business, out to make money, and no longer an institution solely dedicated to the betterment of Colorado’s young citizens.

Students, look around you. It’s blindingly obvious what matters most to the administration: enrollment. More students mean more money. And hey, the deal gets sweeter for them the longer it takes you to graduate.

But how do they bring more students in? Gimmicks. Fancier gyms. Elaborate dorms like the academic village. Entertainment attractions and football. They superse the real reasons why we should be here: to learn.

The consequence of a degraded educational institution is that your degree is worth less than it should be. A degree should be a symbol of your educational attainment, a symbol of your open, knowledge filled mind and your ability to think critically about the world around you, regardless of your concentration.

There’s another caveat to the situation students are faced with here, that of falling expectations.

Professors take their jobs seriously and should expect a lot from their students, which in turn pushes their students to actually immerse themselves in the material. But, to keep graduation rates high, professors are forced to scale back their expectations instead of failing every student that turns in a hastily written paper unworthy of being judged at a college level.

Students need to take back the reins and start valuing knowledge again. We need to be more than just skilled laborers, we need to be thinkers. We all need to be well-read, civic-minded citizens that can not only recognize the flaws in our society, but do something about them. Where does it begin?

It starts with you. Ask yourself: Why did you enroll at CSU? Was it to party all the time? Was it the female-to-male ratio? Was it the easy access to mountains for boarding?

Or was it to pursue something greater? Was there a drive to become a fuller, smarter, more self-aware and worldly conscious human being?

To be sure, I certainly didn’t feel driven when I was a freshman. It took time for me to recognize the value of education. The original reasons I enrolled were trivial, and slowly evolved into more profound and purposeful ones as I matured, now to the point of graduation.

I couldn’t have come this far without guidance from amazing people. Professors John Straayer, Michele Betsill, Gamze Yasar and Elizabeth Jones, all I cannot thank enough for what they have taught me. Likewise, the good people at the Collegian, especially my editor Ian Bezek, have given me the generous support and opportunity needed to run my opinion each week for the past three semesters.

For all it’s become, I still thank and love CSU for these past years of memories, friends, experiences and especially for the education it has given me. I miss you already, CSU.

M. Alex Stephens is a senior political science major. This is his last column. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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