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More than just cheese

David Barrett | Monday, November 24, 2003

So, I was at this party last night. To be safe, let us call it a get-together. People were sitting on couches, all feeling a little confused about the rave music blaring from the stereo: “Hyper! Hyper! Come on! Put your hands in the air! Hyper! Hyper!” Secretly wishing we were all in some discotheque in Zurich, we sat there as two kids came in grunting, yelling and killing the mood. Just when the song was getting good, one of them thought it an appropriate time to approach one of my friends and speak his mind. “Hey, your little brother is a complete loser; he’s, like, not cool at all, man. Get this: he calls pizza ‘za.’ Yeah, totally stupid.”It was one of those moments when you asked yourself, “Did that kid seriously just say that?” I wasn’t sure how to react. Maybe I should just dismiss it as some kid who thinks he’s a smoothie running his mouth. No, it was more than that. For a second I thought I was a 5th grader getting on the bus to barbs from our neighborhood bully, who kept reminding me that my ankle length jeans made it look like I was getting ready for a flood. It had honestly been a long time since I had met a kid with that much attitude.When does some closed-minded doink in a yellow oxford and Blue Blockers think it is ever okay to put people down, much less family? There was so much wrong with that moment. I honestly thought that four or five years ago diversity and sensitivity became cool, popular and actually practiced. Sometime, hopefully during high school, people reached a level of maturity when they realized that making fun of people’s expressions or second hand jeans simply wasn’t acceptable anymore. Hopefully. Not realistically. Some Notre Dame students, while exceptional in mathematics and the natural sciences, cannot muster up enough tact and sensibility to keep from embarrassing themselves in social situations.This past week I had an opportunity to drive up to Madison, Wisc. for a couple of days. I decided to take a tour of the Law School and sit in on a class. Of the roughly 60 kids in the class, 40 of them had laptops and about 20 of those with laptops were playing some variety of Yahoo games. It is always nice to see kids in school for the right reasons. Relatively unimpressed.However, outside the school, on the main drag of campus known as State Street, part of which is only accessible to pedestrians and panhandlers, I was in a whole other classroom. I saw hippies, Hell’s Angels, and a flutist in prison issue orange. There were about four Thai restaurants and two Greek ones, a kiosk called “Jamaicamerica” specializing in all things jerked and countless others. Everywhere you looked there were backpacks, students scurrying to class and soaking it all in.I always thought state schools were fun. Yet they were only fun in the sense that you knew a kid there whose floor you could sleep on for a weekend. Too overwhelming to make me actually want to attend one. But Madison was more than that. Instead of a colorless campus indifferent to its uniformity, you have an amazing city completely devoted to and proud of its diversity. It thrives on the fact that so many different types of people walk past each other on their ways to class. Sure, they don’t have the true blue student body that Notre Dame does, but nor do they have the juvenile who continually criticizes those around him simply because they may not share with him the same sense of “cool.” I was impressed by what Madison offers and Notre Dame really doesn’t. Their students can get an education merely by walking through town or grabbing a bite to eat. They don’t really even have to do anything. Lucky them. Unluckily for us, we are stuck with kids who criticize “za” and your little brother. Kids that might have come to Notre Dame partly because they knew they’d find someone who’d laugh with them. Which brings me to my point. People should get off campus and into the community of South Bend, which, although no Madison, still offers a different perspective and perhaps a better one. There are a number of centers and clinics where you can be a great help, if only an extra set of hands. In return, you might get the education you missed out on when you decided against that state school.Then we can all live together peacefully. We can celebrate our newfound perspective, and commemorate the moment with a pizza party at my house. I’ll order some “zas” with “zooms” and “zonis,” and you’ll love it.

David Barrett is a senior economics and philosophy major. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be contacted at dbarret1@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Observer.