Yes I’m Still Complaining About the Kaplan Center

 

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PC: University Communications

Patrick O’Connell
Staff Writer

My faith in humanity continues to be tested. This week, the thing that sends me to the bottle is the dark realization of how little academia matters to college applicants.

I remember back when I was applying and touring potential schools and how tours would typically go. It would always be a summer camp-esque sales pitch focusing on all the fun stuff there is to do around campus. Tour guides bring prospective students to see the video game lounges, playing fields, restaurants and gymnasiums while there seemed to never be much focus on academia, you know, the thing we came here to do. My faith in humanity continues to be tested.

This week, the thing that sends me to the bottle is the dark realization of how little academia matters to college applicants. I remember back when I was applying and touring potential schools and how tours would typically go. It would always be a summer camp-esque sales pitch focusing on all the fun stuff there is to do around campus. Tour guides bring prospective students to see the video game lounges, playing fields, restaurants and gymnasiums while there seemed to never be much focus on academia, you know, the thing we came here to do.

In UNCG’s case, the Kaplan Center for Wellness seems to be our big attraction for tour groups, something a lot of students had an issue with back when it was built in 2016. While I find it unsettling that universities tend to focus on showing off the “fun”  parts of campus, I am starting to feel more uneasy with the fact that it undisputedly works in getting more applicants.

The Kaplan Center for Wellness was a pretty controversial project when it was announced. In 2012 UNCG announced that it would be building into the Glenwood area and raising the facilities fee by $435 a year, reaching $707 a year. This fee is now the highest in the UNC system.
Building a massive gym that is shiny and chrome on the student’s dime has, in fact, turned out to be a very effective move. Tour groups at UNCG always show off the Kaplan Center and get a nice “ooh” and “ahh” at the sight of our ping pong tables and rowing machines and rock walls and whatever that stair climbing thing is that I can’t figure out. But who can blame them?
You want kids to come here, you show them the biggest, flashiest thing we have. Anyone who’s toured NC State knows about the Hunt Library and their robot librarian. People lose their minds when they see the little gizmos the thousands we pay a year go towards. What is college for again? Is it a place of learning or a summer camp for rich 20-somethings to get wasted while their savings are bled dry?
The thing is, I complain about colleges trying to lure students in with stupid excessive nonsense, but it’s nothing if not effective. Douglas J. Chung, an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, published a study on the “Flutie Effect,” in which after a major football victory for Boston College there was a 30 percent increase in applications. After studying further, it was found that the athletic status of a college affects how many applications they get.

This is not only true for prospective athletes. People like the idea of going to a school that does well in sports. Interestingly enough, students with lower SAT scores were found to have a higher rate of influence by athletic success and as schools become more athletically successful they become more selective.

So was the construction of the Kaplan Center part of a plot to entice people into coming to UNCG or are the powers that be just giving the people what they want? Are students more interested in flashy perks than actual education and UNCG just has to give in to the will of the masses in order to stay afloat?

As a cynical, brooding English major who reads too much Salinger, I have to believe it’s the prospective students influencing this. It would seem that, at this time in history, people go to college out of obligation; so they can have a place in the workforce.

While college could be a home to knowledge to fight ignorance and create a better world, it seems to be treated as a facilitator of hedonism that you go to for four years before climbing on that proverbial hamster wheel for the next sixty or so years and then die. Go Spartans!

 



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