Tackling the Boredom Problem Head On

    When you first get to UCSD, everything seems hunky-dory.

    It’s a top-notch research campus, and students are surrounded by millions of federal research dollars and faculty members at the top of their game. And then there are the fringe benefits: the beautiful campus, the beach that’s just down the street. You might complain about the weather, if the 75-degree cloudless days wouldn’t keep lulling you to sleep before you get a chance.

    But once the excitement of newness wears off, many of UCSD’s 18-year-olds, some still giddy with newfound freedom from the watchful eye of their parents, gradually come to an unhappy realization.

    “I’m bored.” And how.

    Last year’s Undergraduate Student Experience and Satisfaction report went a long way in cataloging the discontent of the average UCSD student. Students complained about a lack of belonging and engagement compared to other UC schools.

    Where are the zany people with faces painted blue and gold, jumping up and down for no better reason than the fact that 1,000 other people are doing it, and having fun?

    At the majority of UCSD sports games, the noise from the crowd is barely enough to compete with the noise of the crickets behind the bleachers or the squeaking of sneakers on hardwood. Even the A.S. Council’s heroic efforts to bribe students into coming to sporting events with free T-shirts and knick-knacks have generally failed. Compared to students at, say, San Diego State, UCSD kids just don’t seem too interested in sports.

    And why not?

    The stereotypical answer is that UCSD students are too focused on academics, and that low attendance is only a logical result. But UCSD draws from roughly the same student pool as UC Berkeley and UCLA — schools that have no problem filling whole stadiums to capacity. Are we really to believe that La Jolla manages to attract only noninterested (or noninteresting) students?

    There’s certainly no shortage of winning home teams to root for. The women’s soccer team is ranked 11th in the nation, and has won five of the last six California Collegiate Athletic Association championships. The men’s water polo team is ranked fifth in the CCAA, while women’s volleyball is a solid 13th. Or break a trend, try something wild — go check out the kendo team. UCSD sent two squads to Harvard’s national kendo tournament, placing second and third.

    If winning is no object, be a sport and cheer for the men’s volleyball team. Maybe a little pat on the back will help the team turn it around. (Last year, they took down Stanford in an upset victory — you never know.)

    Granted, the Division I UC schools and SDSU have a historic tradition of athletic competition that the relatively young UCSD — founded 1959, 40 years after UCLA and 130 after UC Berkeley — can’t hope to match. But what does it matter if we have traditions or not? Start one. Once you’re done reading this article, get 15 of your friends to go to the next men’s soccer game (this Friday, Sept. 29, against Sonoma State, 4:30 p.m., RIMAC field). Even if you don’t care about soccer — just do it. Pretend it’s the World Cup.

    And involvement in sports is barely scratching the surface. What else could UCSD use?

    Except during finals week, UCSD has no 24-hour store, restaurant or hang-out place. How often do you find yourself scrambling to get to OceanView Terrace before it closes, only to be coldly denied at the door and faced with an unhappy trek to Ralphs? And after all, who wants to hang out at Ralphs at 2 a.m., except that one guy with the beard?

    You can wait for the university administration to create something shiny and awkward, or you can contact your A.S. Commissioner of Enterprise Operations (Sydney Goldberg, telephone: (858) 534-5254, e-mail: [email protected]) and make one yourself.

    UCLA’s student government runs several restaurants and a trademark service; Stanford’s controls a bank that manages $6 million, and a professional Web design business. Is the best we can do the A.S. Lecture Notes and a half-hearted plan for a store in the expanded Price Center?

    How about a student-run computer repair and troubleshooting service? Technicians from Academic Computing Services charge a minimum of $25 simply to look at your computer, and $50 for every hour it takes to fix the problem. (It costs even more if you want them to come to you.) Might there be any tech-savvy undergrads willing to fix computers for, say, $40 an hour — or less?

    Or maybe someone could set up a writing workshop and editing service, to help out all those who struggle through writing-heavy GEs. Talk to your student representatives and make it happen.

    Students have lamented the lack of a designated spot to vent frustrations, like London’s Speaker’s Corner or Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza. So make one! The Hump outside the Main Gym, the concrete slabs at the bottom of the Snake Path, or the stonehenge-looking thing south of Galbraith are all perfect candidates.

    Join an intramural volleyball team. Join a debate team. Mix it up with the vinylphiles, or pick fights with the College Democrats. Write for the Guardian. Heckle the Guardian, write for the Koala. Join the California Review, and put out a newspaper only as often as A.S. funding rules require.

    According to last year’s U.S.E.S. report:

    “Student satisfaction (along all dimensions) was greater for students who participated in activities, such as study abroad, UCDC and independent research, than for those students who did not engage in such activities.”

    No surprise there. If you get involved, you’ll be happier. The U.S.E.S. report would never lie. Moral of the story: If there’s anything that stands between you and a university you love attending, go out and do something about it. You have nothing to lose but your regrets.

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